Background: The surgical indications and management of posterior fossa arachnoid cysts (AC) are still controversial. Different surgical techniques and management have already been suggested for arachnoid cysts of the posterior fossa. AC involving the posterior fossa and especially the cerebellopontine angle may carry a high surgical morbidity because of the involvement of important neurovascular structures (e.g., brain stem and cranial nerves). Only long-term follow-up will determine the best surgical technique for such lesions.
Methods: Between 1990 and 1996 a total of 12 patients underwent surgery for arachnoid cysts involving the posterior fossa. In seven cases AC were located within the cerebellopontine angle (CPA), in three cases in the CPA with major extension dorsal to the brainstem, and in two cases at the CPA extending into the internal auditory canal.
Results: A suboccipital retrosigmoid approach was performed in all patients. Radical resection of the cyst could be accomplished in all but one case. There was no mortality. Major postoperative morbidity was present in one case because of an intraoperative air embolism in the semisitting position and strong adherence of the cyst wall to the surrounding neurovascular structures. Long-term follow-up (mean, 3.3 years) revealed improvement of most preoperative symptoms.
Conclusion: Open surgery and radical removal of the AC located at the posterior fossa, based on our retrospective analysis, provide very good long-term postoperative results. The suboccipital approach provides a good and safe exposure of vascular structures and cranial nerves in the CPA and allows radical resection of the cyst, reducing the chance of recurrence.