Prenatal diagnosis of arachnoid cysts: a case series and systematic review

Childs Nerv Syst. 2020 Apr;36(4):729-741. doi: 10.1007/s00381-019-04477-6. Epub 2020 Jan 2.


Introduction: Primary cysts are believed to arise from the splitting of the arachnoid membrane during prenatal development and can be diagnosed in utero. Prenatal diagnosis is uncommon; therefore, the evidence base for counselling expectant mothers is limited. The purpose of this article is to present a case series and review the current literature on prenatally diagnosed arachnoid cysts.

Method: A keyword search of hospital electronic records was performed for all patients with a prenatally diagnosed arachnoid cyst at a tertiary neurosurgical centre. Case notes were reviewed for all patients diagnosed between 2005 and 2017. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were used to structure a systematic review of all English language articles published up to May 2018.

Results: A total of eight eligible patients were identified from our own records and 123 from the literature. Sixty-eight per cent of patients had a normal outcome. Sixty-three per cent of patients underwent surgical intervention which was not associated with abnormal outcome. The diagnosis of syndromic/genetic diagnosis (p < 0.001) and the presence of other intra-cranial anatomical abnormalities (p = 0.05) were significant predictors of abnormal outcome.

Conclusion: The pathogenesis and prognosis of a prenatal arachnoid cyst diagnosis remain unclear. These results suggest favourable outcomes from simple cysts without associated abnormalities and expectant mothers should be counselled accordingly. A wider prospective review is required to better established evidence-based practice.

Keywords: Arachnoid cyst; Congenital abnormality; Paediatric neurosurgery; Prenatal ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arachnoid Cysts* / diagnostic imaging
  • Arachnoid Cysts* / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies