A recent case led the authors to re-examine the clinical characteristics of the cervical ectopia of the major salivary glands. These glands develop in the embryo between the sixth and seventh week, starting with the formation of endodermal invaginations of the branchial section of the floor of the primitive mouth. These cell cords, initially solid, proliferate in the underlying mesenchyme, starting from the opening of the future excretory duct, and subsequently branch and canalize.
During embryogenesis, the endodermal invaginations become closely interconnected with the adjacent lymphatic tissue. It is thus possible for lymphoid tissue to migrate into the parotid or the other major salivary glands, or conversely, for salivary tissue to become included in the cervical lymph nodes. Very rarely, ectopic salivary gland tissue can also be found in other unusual locations, including the neck region, as a result of a developmental abnormality of the branchial apparatus. The base of the neck is the most common location, while ectopia of the mid third of the neck is quite rare.
The authors discuss the clinical details and diagnostic procedure leading to preoperative diagnosis. This congenital anomaly can, albeit rarely, degenerate into cancer, and surgical excision is thus imperative.