Pathology of the cervical lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)

DEFINITION: Cervical lymphadenopathy or a pathology affecting the lymph nodes located in the cervical or neck region. There are various groups or chains of lymph nodes mostly located along the lateral borders of the neck. There are about 300 lymph nodes in this region. There are various methods of grouping and naming them. There superficial (palpable) and deep (not easily palpable) groups. The superficial ones are often arranged as anterior cervical, middle cervical and posterior cervical and these use the sternocleidomastoid muscles as a reference point.

CAUSES: Depending as to which group of cervical lymph nodes you are referring to these collectively drain structures of the head, face and neck as well as the internal tissues of these structures. Therefore malignancies and infections in these regions will at some stage affect the relevant group of lymph nodes. See additional nodes on individual groups.

EXAMINATION: The superficial cervical lymph nodes can easily be felt both in their normal state and of course much more readily in their pathological state. Systematically palpate the neck with your fingers placed obliquely against the neck tissues. Use a small gentle rolling motion and progress for the anterior chains to the posterior and also from superior near the mastoid process and mandible down to the supraclavicular region. Try to vary the pressure and direction or the movement of your fingertips. Ascertain if they are enlarged, tender, rubbery, fixed or mobile.