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J Neurosurg. 1988 Apr;68(4):544-9.

Intradural arachnoid cysts of the spinal canal associated with intramedullary cysts.

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Department of Neurological Surgery, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.


Five patients had intradural arachnoid cysts of the thoracic spinal canal associated with syringomyelia or posttraumatic intramedullary spinal cord cysts. Three cases were diagnosed 6 to 18 years after spinal surgery and two 14 to 17 years after spinal cord trauma. In each case, delayed progression of symptoms led to the identification of the lesions. The diagnosis was assisted by the use of myelography and delayed computerized tomography scanning in two cases and by magnetic resonance imaging in all five. In each case, the arachnoid cyst appeared to compress the spinal cord or nerve roots; in three cases, the syrinx cavities appeared to exert a significant mass effect. In the two trauma-related cases, the intramedullary cysts were small and may have represented areas of cystic myelomalacia. In four cases, intraoperative real-time ultrasonography helped to localize the arachnoid and intramedullary cavities. All five patients were treated by fenestration of the arachnoid cyst; additional peritoneal shunting of the cyst was performed in one case and of the intramedullary cavity in three. In one patient, the two lesions appeared to have a balancing effect; after drainage of the arachnoid cyst, the syrinx cavity expanded and had to be treated separately. The neurological deficits were reduced in four patients and stabilized in one. Intradural arachnoid cysts and intramedullary cysts may occur together as a late complication of spinal surgery or spinal cord trauma, and either or both lesions may cause delayed neurological deterioration.

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