Symptomatic Rathke cleft cysts: extent of resection and surgical complications

Symptomatic Rathke cleft cysts: extent of resection and surgical complications

Neurosurgical FOCUS, Volume 31, Issue 1, Page E2, July 2011.

Dominique M. Higgins, M.S., Jamie J. Van Gompel, M.D., Todd B. Nippoldt, M.D., and Fredric B. Meyer, M.D.


Rathke cleft cysts (RCCs) are benign masses arising from the embryological Rathke pouch, and are commonly treated by transsphenoidal surgery. The authors retrospectively compared RCC extent of resection—either gross-total resection (GTR) or decompression—to the primary outcome measure, which was recurrences resulting in repeat surgery, and the secondary outcome measure, which was complications.


Seventy-four patients presenting to the neurosurgical department with RCC were analyzed retrospectively. Sixty-eight patients had a total of 78 surgical procedures, with the diagnosis of RCC confirmed by histological investigation; of these, 61 patients had adequate operative notes for the authors to evaluate extent of resection. Groups were separated into GTR (32 patients) or decompression (subtotal resection or fenestration into the sphenoid sinus; 29 patients) based on operative notes and postoperative imaging. The mean follow-up duration was 60.5 ± 72.1 months (the mean is expressed ± SD throughout).


The average age at the time of the initial surgery was 42.8 ± 17.4 years, and 70% of patients were female. The mean cyst diameter preoperatively was 16.9 ± 17.8 mm. Eight patients had repeat surgery, our primary outcome measure; 3 repeat operations occurred in the GTR group, and 5 in the decompression group. There was no significant difference in recurrence when comparing groups (GTR 9%, decompression 17%; p = 0.36). There were no major complications; however, analysis of postoperative minor complications revealed that 11 (34%) GTRs resulted in surgical complications, whereas the decompression cohort accounted for only 3 complications (10%) (p = 0.03), with diabetes insipidus (6) and CSF leaks (5) being the most common. Gross-total resection also resulted in an increase in postoperative hyperprolactinemia compared with decompression (p = 0.03).


It appears that RCCs require repeat surgery in 13% of cases, and attempted GTR does not appear to reduce the overall rate of recurrence. However, more aggressive resections are associated with more complications in this series.


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