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Spine J. 2009 Nov;9(11):899-904. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2009.06.010. Epub 2009 Aug 6.

Outcome of percutaneous rupture of lumbar synovial cysts: a case series of 101 patients.

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Department of Orthopedics, New England Baptist Hospital, Boston, MA 02120, USA.



Lumbar facet joint synovial cysts are benign degenerative abnormalities of the lumbar spine. Previous reports have supported operative and nonoperative management. Facet joint steroid injection with cyst rupture is occasionally performed, but there has been no systematic evaluation of this treatment option.


To profile the role of facet joint steroid injections with cyst rupture in the treatment of lumbar facet joint synovial cysts.


Retrospective chart review and long-term follow-up of patients treated for lumbar facet joint synovial cysts.


One hundred one patients treated for lumbar facet joint synovial cysts with fluoroscopically guided corticosteroid facet joint injection and attempted cyst rupture.


Oswestry Disability Index and numeric rating scale score for back and leg pain.


A retrospective review and a subsequent interview were conducted to collect pretreatment and posttreatment pain and disability scores along with details of subsequent treatment interventions. Group differences in pain and disability scores were assessed using paired t test. Multiple clinical factors were analyzed in terms of risk for surgical intervention using logistic regression modeling and Cox proportional hazards modeling.


Successful cyst rupture was confirmed fluoroscopically in 81% of cases. Fifty-five patients (54%) required subsequent surgery over a period averaging 8.4 months because of inadequate symptom relief. All patients reported significant improvement in back pain, leg pain, and disability at 3.2 years postinjection, regardless of their subsequent treatment course (p<.0001 in all groups). There was no significant difference in current pain between patients who received injections only and those who underwent subsequent surgery.


This study presents the largest clinical series of nonsurgical treatment for lumbar facet joint synovial cysts. Lumbar facet joint steroid injection with attempted cyst rupture is correlated with avoiding subsequent surgery in half of treated patients. Successful cyst rupture does not appear to have added benefit, and it was associated with worse disability 3 years postinjection. Long-term outcomes are similar, regardless of subsequent surgery.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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