Evaluation and Treatment of Lumbar Facet Cysts


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Abstract

Lumbar facet cysts are a rare but increasingly common cause of symptomatic nerve root compression and can lead to radiculopathy, neurogenic claudication, and cauda equina syndrome. The cysts arise from the zygapophyseal joints of the lumbar spine and commonly demonstrate synovial herniation with mucinous degeneration of the facet joint capsule. Lumbar facet cysts are most common at the L4-L5 level and often are associated with spondylosis and degenerative spondylolisthesis. Advanced imaging studies have increased diagnosis of the cysts; however, optimal treatment of the cysts remains controversial. First-line treatment is nonsurgical management consisting of oral NSAIDs, physical therapy, bracing, epidural steroid injections, and/or cyst aspiration. Given the high rate of recurrence and the relatively low satisfaction with nonsurgical management, surgical options, including hemilaminectomy or laminotomy to excise the cyst and decompress the neural elements, are typically performed. Recent studies suggest that segmental fusion of the involved levels may decrease the risks of cyst recurrence and radiculopathy.

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