Clinical, radiographic, and pathological features of symptomatic Rathke's cleft cysts

J Neurosurg. 1991 Apr;74(4):535-44. doi: 10.3171/jns.1991.74.4.0535.


The clinical, radiographic, and pathological findings in 155 patients with symptomatic Rathke's cleft cysts are discussed. Eight patients were treated by the authors and 147 were collected in a review of the literature. This lesion occurred more often in female than male patients by a 2:1 margin, and the mean age at presentation was 38 years. The average patient had been symptomatic for nearly 3 years at the time of treatment, with the most common symptoms and signs being pituitary dysfunction, visual disturbances, and headaches. Affected children generally were pituitary dwarfs. The sella was enlarged in 80% of cases, and the cyst was situated in both an intrasellar and a suprasellar location in 71%. Computerized tomography revealed a low-density cystic mass with capsular enhancement in one-half of the cases. A variable appearance was seen with magnetic resonance imaging. Partial excision and drainage of the cyst by the transsphenoidal approach is the recommended treatment, as the recurrence rate is low. Most symptoms and signs improved or resolved following surgery with the exception of hypopituitarism and diabetes insipidus. The cyst lining was usually composed of ciliated cuboidal or columnar epithelium. Theories as to the origin of Rathke's cleft cysts are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cysts / diagnosis*
  • Cysts / diagnostic imaging
  • Cysts / embryology
  • Cysts / pathology
  • Cysts / surgery
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pituitary Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Pituitary Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Pituitary Diseases / embryology
  • Pituitary Diseases / pathology
  • Pituitary Diseases / surgery
  • Pituitary Gland / diagnostic imaging
  • Pituitary Gland / pathology
  • Pituitary Gland / surgery
  • Radiography
  • Retrospective Studies