Surgical Management of Rathke Cleft Cysts

World Neurosurg. 2017 Nov:107:276-284. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2017.07.164. Epub 2017 Aug 5.


Background: The diagnosis of Rathke cleft cysts (RCC) has increased in recent times as a result of improvements in imaging techniques; however, symptomatic patients are uncommon and accurate preoperative diagnosis may sometimes be difficult. The indications of surgical management protocol are evolving. We aim to provide a comprehensive review of clinical, imaging, and histopathologic features with operative management strategies along with outcome and prognosis in RCC.

Methods: A retrospective analysis (2003-2015) was performed of 58 consecutive cases of RCC seen in a surgical unit. Twenty-seven surgically treated symptomatic RCCs were further evaluated for their clinical presentation, imaging characteristics, surgical approaches, and intraoperative findings.

Results: Headache was the most common presenting complaint followed by visual deficit. Hormonal abnormality was observed in 13 patients. On magnetic resonance imaging, the characteristic intracystic nodule was identified in 6 patients. Transsphenoidal surgery for cyst excision was performed in all 27 patients with an endoscopic route in 25 patients and radical excision was performed in 17 patients. The pituitary stalk and the normal gland were preserved in all patients. Headache improved in 96% of patients and visual field defect resolved in all. Around 46% had improvement of the anterior pituitary axis. New permanent hormone deficiency was not observed. The recurrence rate was 3.7% after a minimum of 18 months follow-up.

Conclusions: RCCs are an uncommon disease with a wide spectrum of clinical and radiologic features. Endonasal endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery provides excellent clinical and endocrinologic improvement. We believe that radical excision does not necessarily result in endocrinologic impairment and may have a better impact on recurrence and cyst resolution.

Keywords: Endocrine recovery; Endoscopic endonasal transsphenoidal surgery; Rathke cleft cyst; Surgical outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Central Nervous System Cysts / complications
  • Central Nervous System Cysts / surgery*
  • Female
  • Headache Disorders / etiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / etiology
  • Organ Sparing Treatments
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / complications
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult