Cervical Lymph Nodes
What are Cervical Lymph nodes (Cervical Lymphadenopathy)?
Lymph nodes are scattered throughout the body. They are part of the body’s immune system. These nodes help fight infection by producing special white blood cells. They also work by trapping bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. Normally, lymph nodes cannot be felt unless they are swollen. Infection, usually by a virus, is the most common cause of lymph node swelling. Other causes include bacterial infection and cancer.
Cervical lymph nodes specifically refer to lymph nodes in the region of the head and neck.
What are the causes of cervical lymphadenopathy?
Causes of cervical lymphadenopathy are usually viral or bacterial infection, which can include:
- Infection of the tonsils and adenoids
- Upper respiratory tract infections (URTI)
- Other viral infections
There are also other more serious infections that can cause swelling in the cervical lymph nodes. Fortunately, these are rare, and include:
- Fungal Infections
- Spread of cancers in the head and neck region
How is Cervical Lymphadenopathy investigated?
In the majority of cases of cervical lymphadenopathy with no obvious cause, flexible nasoendoscopy is performed. This involves the insertion of a small, thin tube into the nostrils to assess the nasal cavity and throat for the presence of lesions which may be related to cervical lymphadenopathy.
Imaging is frequently requested in order to asses the site and extent of cervical lymphadenopathy. Imaging may also pick up other abnormalities which may be causing or are related to cervical lymphadenopathy. This may take the form of ultrasound examinations, computed tomography (CT) scans, or Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Routine blood tests are run to look for a high white blood count that would suggest a bacterial infection. Other more specific blood tests may be run if other conditions are suspected.
Lymph nodes can be biopsied in the following ways:
Fine needle aspiration (FNA)
A thin needle with a hollow tube is inserted into the lymph node to remove fluid and sample cells for testing. A fine-needle aspiration is usually completed within 10-15 minutes, and there is little to no patient down time. This is usually the first type of biopsy performed.
Core needle biopsy
This biopsy is similar to a fine needle aspiration, except a larger needle is used. With the larger hollow center, a small block of tissue can be removed for testing, allowing more information to be collected than with fluid or cells. Local anesthesia is typically utilized, and the procedure lasts approximately 15-30 minutes.
A small incision is made in order to remove part or all of the lymph node. The procedure is most often performed with local anesthesia applied to the biopsy site, but general anesthesia may also be used in cases where it is desirable for the patient to be sleeping. An open biopsy usually takes less than an hour, and afterward, your surgeon will close the site with sutures and apply a bandage. The incision takes approximately 10-14 days to heal, during which strenuous activity should be avoided. Open biopsies are only performed if FNA biopsy or core needle biopsies are inconclusive; or if the patient’s medical condition necessitates it.
How is cervical lymphadenopathy treated?
Cervical lymphadenopathy should be investigated and treated if it has been present for a prolonged duration, or if there is any concern about an underlying malignancy. Treatment depends on the root cause, and may range from medical treatments such as antibiotics, to surgical treatments such as removal of the cervical lymph nodes.
Frequently asked questions
conditions We treat
- Thyroid nodules
- Cancer of the Thyroid
- Salivary Gland lumps
- Salivary Gland and/or Salivary Duct Stones
- Enlarged Cervical Lymph Nodes
- Cancers of the Head and Neck Region
- Nasopharyngeal Cancer (NPC)
- Lesions in the Mouth & Oral Cavity
- Hemi / Total Thyroidectomy
- Salivary gland removal (submandibular / parotid gland)
- Removal of salivary duct stones
- Excision of Cervical Lymph Nodes
- Excision of Mouth & Oral Cavity Lesions