Lumbar Intraspinal Synovial and Ganglion Cysts (Facet Cysts): Ten-Year Experience in Evaluation and Treatment

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Study Design.This study analyzed the clinical history, physical examination, diagnostic studies, and operative and histologic findings in 19 patints with lumbar intraspinal synovial and ganglion facet cysts evaluated and treated over a 10-year period.Objectives.The results were correlated to provide a greater understanding of lumbar facet cysts and rationale for conservative or surgical treatments.Summary of Background Data.The 19 patients included 13 women and 6 men ranging in age from 38 to 79 years. 84.4% of the patients presented with radicular pain. 26.3% had significant motor deficit. 68.4% of the facet cysts were found at L4–L5, 21.1% at L5–S1, 5.2% at L1–L2, and 5.2% at L2–L3.Methods.The clinical history and findings on physical examination, standard radiography, myelography, computed tomography-myelography, facet arthrography, post-facet arthrograph computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging with and without contrast, and computed tomography scans were reviwed.Results.Bilobed cysts were found on both dorsal and ventral aspects of the involved facet joints within and outside of the spinal canal on facet arthrography, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and at the time of surgery in more than 60% of the patients. Significant facet degeneration was found in 75% of stadard radiographs, and on all of the magenetic resonance imaging and computed tomography scans. In six patients, symptoms improved with rest, medication, and bracing. Epidural corticosteriod injections provided short-term relief in three out of fout patients. Facet corticosteroid injections provided good relief in one, partial relief in one, and no relief in one patient. Surgical decompression in eight patients resulted in three excellent, four good, and one fair outcome.Conclusions.Most of the lumbar intraspinal facet cysts were associated with significantly degenerated facet joints. Patients with intraspinal facet cysts may respond to conservative treatments if there is no significant neurologic deficit. Surgical decompression and removal of large facet cysts usually are successful in relieving symptoms.

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