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Neurosurgery. 2011 Nov;69(5):1058-68; discussion 1068-7. doi: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e318228bcea.

Suprasellar Rathke cleft cysts: clinical presentation and treatment outcomes.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery and California Center for Pituitary Disorders, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143-0112, USA.



Rathke cleft cysts (RCCs), benign remnants of the Rathke pouch typically arising in the sella, sometimes have suprasellar extension. Purely suprasellar RCCs are rarely reported.


To compare the presentations, surgical outcomes, and pathology of purely suprasellar RCCs and sellar-based RCCs.


We retrospectively reviewed records, magnetic resonance images, laboratory results, and pathology of 151 RCC patients surgically managed at our institution from 1989 to 2009. The RCCs were classified as purely sellar (type I, n = 76), sellar with suprasellar extension (type II, n = 56), or purely suprasellar (type III, n = 19).


The RCCs with a suprasellar component (types II and III) more commonly presented with visual dysfunction (P < .001). Complete cyst drainage occurred in 89%, 55%, and 38% of type I, II, and III RCCs, respectively (P < .001). Vision improved in 100%, 55%, and 33% and headache improved in 74%, 64%, and 29% of type I, II, and III patients, respectively (P = .02). Temporary or permanent postoperative diabetes insipidus occurred in 5%, 16%, and 21% of type I, II, and III patients, respectively. (P < .001). In a multivariate analysis, RCC type was the only factor predicting recurrence. Kaplan-Meier 3-year recurrence/progression rates were 0%, 16%, and 29% for type I, II, and III RCCs, respectively (P < .001, type I vs II, type I vs III; P = .5 type II vs III).


The RCCs with a suprasellar component are neurosurgically challenging because of their proximity to the optic chiasm and infundibulum. Compared with sellar-based RCCs, RCCs with a suprasellar component more frequently present with visual dysfunction, are more difficult to completely eliminate, recur more frequently, and are associated with higher postoperative endocrine morbidity, and their preoperative visual dysfunction and headache less frequently improve with surgery. These factors must be considered during the treatment of RCCs with a suprasellar component.

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