Blake's Pouch Cysts and Differential Diagnoses in Prenatal and Postnatal MRI : A Pictorial Review

Clin Neuroradiol. 2020 Sep;30(3):435-445. doi: 10.1007/s00062-019-00871-4. Epub 2020 Jan 15.


Purpose: The clinical variability of Blake's pouch cysts (BPC) may range from asymptomatic via ataxia to sequelae of decompensated hydrocephalus. On the other hand, Dandy-Walker malformation (DWM) and cerebellar vermis hypoplasia generally correlate with less favorable neurologic development. The aim was to illustrate the potential of prenatal and postnatal neuroimaging to distinguish a BPC or persistent BP from other posterior fossa malformations.

Methods: This pictorial review addresses the inconsistent nomenclature, clinical features, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) patterns of BPC and five differential diagnoses. The MRI findings of 11 patients, acquired at up to 3 T in 3 institutions, are demonstrated. Furthermore, the literature was searched for recent improvements in genetic and embryological background knowledge.

Results: Posterior fossa malformations often resemble each other and may even be imitated by sequelae of hemorrhagic, ischemic or infectious disruptions, i.e. congenital anomalies of morphology despite normal developmental potential. Hydrocephalus is a typical, albeit not always congenital finding in BPC. It is frequently associated with cerebellar disruptions and DWM; however, it is also a rare complication of posterior fossa arachnoid cysts. A moderately elevated vermis needs follow-up to confirm persistent BP versus vermian hypoplasia or DWM. The fetal cerebellar tail, previously assumed to be specific for DWM, may be imitated in cases of persistent BP.

Conclusion: The accurate diagnosis of isolated BPC is not always straightforward, which is especially critical in the context of fetomaternal medicine. A detailed description of posterior fossa malformations is to be preferred over unspecific terminology.

Keywords: Arachnoid cyst; Cerebellar disruption; Cerebellar hypoplasia; Dandy-Walker malformation; Mega cisterna magna.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cranial Fossa, Posterior / abnormalities*
  • Cranial Fossa, Posterior / diagnostic imaging
  • Cysts / congenital*
  • Cysts / diagnostic imaging*
  • Dandy-Walker Syndrome / diagnostic imaging*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocephalus / congenital
  • Hydrocephalus / diagnostic imaging
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Prognosis
  • Terminology as Topic