Management of perineural (Tarlov) cysts: a population-based cohort study and algorithm for the selection of surgical candidates

Acta Neurochir (Wien). 2019 Sep;161(9):1909-1915. doi: 10.1007/s00701-019-04000-5. Epub 2019 Jul 3.


Objective: Perineural cysts, also known as Tarlov cysts, are cerebrospinal fluid-filled growths that develop at the intersection of a dorsal root ganglion and posterior nerve root. They are typically an asymptomatic and incidental finding during routine spine imaging. For symptomatic perineural cysts, there is little evidence on which treatment is most effective or when it is indicated. The aim of this study was to review our experience from a population-based cohort of patients with symptomatic perineural cysts and to propose an algorithm that could be used in the selection of surgical candidates.

Methods: A retrospective review was conducted of all adult (≥ 15 years) patients with symptomatic perineural cysts who were referred to Karolinska University Hospital between 2002 and 2018.

Results: Thirty-nine patients were included. The most common symptom was sciatica (n = 22). Cyst aspiration was performed in 28 patients, 24 of whom showed clinical improvement and were offered surgery. Microsurgical cyst fenestration was performed in 17 patients, 16 of whom showed clinical improvement at long-term follow-up. There were no surgical complications. Ten of the patients who were offered surgery chose to be treated conservatively instead, four of whom showed progression of symptoms at long-term follow-up.

Conclusions: Microsurgical cyst fenestration seems to be a safe and effective option for symptomatic relief in patients with perineural cysts. Based on the results from our series and those of others, we propose an algorithm for the selection of surgical candidates.

Keywords: Neurosurgery; Perineural cyst; Surgery; Tarlov cyst.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Algorithms*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Microsurgery
  • Middle Aged
  • Myelography
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / methods*
  • Patient Selection*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Suction
  • Tarlov Cysts / diagnostic imaging
  • Tarlov Cysts / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult