Radiologic characteristics and results of surgical management of Rathke's cysts in 43 patients

Neurosurgery. 1992 Feb;30(2):173-8; discussion 178-9. doi: 10.1227/00006123-199202000-00004.


Although Rathke's cysts are a relatively common autopsy finding, rarely have they been reported as a clinical entity. Because of recent improvements in neuroradiological imaging, cystic intrasellar and suprasellar lesions are discovered often, leading to questions about proper management. Against this background, we reviewed the data from 43 patients with Rathke's cysts treated by one neurosurgeon over a 13-year period, and present the results here. The 43 patients had a mean age of 34 years, and 77% were female. Headache was the most common symptom, followed by galactorrhea, visual field loss, and hypopituitarism. Computed tomographic (CT) scans were reviewed in 20 cases, magnetic resonance (MR) images were reviewed in 15, and both CT and MR studies were reviewed in 5 cases. Although all Rathke's cysts were discrete and well-defined by both CT and MR imaging, the diversity of locations, CT attenuations, and MR signal intensity make it difficult to establish the diagnosis by radiological criteria. Forty patients underwent transsphenoidal surgery and three underwent craniotomy. There was one recurrence at 25 months requiring a second operation, and the mean follow-up period was 62 months. Seven patients had persistent headaches. For symptomatic lesions suspected to be Rathke's cysts, the recommended treatment is simple drainage of the cyst with biopsy of the wall, when this can be done safely. Follow-up imaging should be minimal for asymptomatic patients, and radiation therapy is not indicated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Craniopharyngioma / complications
  • Craniopharyngioma / diagnostic imaging
  • Craniopharyngioma / epidemiology
  • Craniopharyngioma / pathology
  • Craniopharyngioma / surgery*
  • Female
  • Headache / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hyperprolactinemia / etiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / complications
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Vision Disorders / etiology