How can we help you?
Schedule anappointment »
Ask a question »
Request our expertopinion »
412-647-3685(within the U.S.)
Arachnoid cysts are cerebrospinal fluid covered by arachnoidal cells. They develop at the base of the skull, the surface of the brain, or on the arachnoid membrane. In rare cases, arachnoid cysts may also form on the spinal cord.
Arachnoid cysts usually are located in the skull, brain, and rarely, in the spinal cord.
The arachnoid cysts can grow to a large size if they continue to retain cerebrospinal fluid. In more extreme cases the cysts' size may cause the head to change shape or may displace the surrounding lobes of the brain.
Three different membranes make up the protective covering that envelops the central nervous system (the meninges). These layers, beginning with the most external, are the:
Cerebrospinal fluid is mainly contained between the arachnoid layer and pia mater. An arachnoid cyst forms when the layers of the arachnoid membrane split apart and become filled with cerebrospinal fluid.
Common symptoms of arachnoid cysts include:
The preferred surgical treatment at UPMC for arachnoid cysts is through small openings at the side of the skull. Doctors open (fenestrate) the cyst with the help of endoscopes in this minimally invasive procedure.
At UPMC, the preferred surgical treatment for certain arachnoid cysts of the skull base is the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA). This innovative, minimally invasive treatment technique uses the nose and nasal cavities as natural corridors to access hard-to-reach or previously inoperable tumors.
Benefits of EEA include:
To diagnose an arachnoid cyst, your doctor may ask you about any symptoms you're experiencing, perform a physical exam, and order imaging tests.
Symptoms depend on the size and location of the cyst. Very small cysts may not cause any symptoms at all and may be discovered during an unrelated exam.
Larger sized arachnoid cysts can cause a variety of neurologic symptoms, including:
Doctors usually identify larger cysts with symptoms by imaging studies as part of a neurologic exam.
MRI is the preferred technique because these scans can reveal fluid-filled cysts as distinct from other types of cysts.
Some doctors prefer to treat only symptomatic arachnoid cysts. Others advocate treatment for asymptomatic cysts to prevent the possibility of future damage.
Within these groups, some doctors focus their treatment on alleviation of the symptoms, while others recommend surgery.
The goals of surgery are to drain the cyst and prevent it from refilling.
To prevent the cyst from refilling, doctors remove the outer membrane of the cyst or open a small window on the cyst (fenestrating the capsule) to create wide communications with the normal surrounding subarachnoid space.
Certain arachnoid cysts of the skull base, such as sellar and suprasellar cysts, can be accessed directly using the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA).
This state-of-the-art, minimally invasive treatment approach allows surgeons to access the tumor through the natural corridor of the nose, without making an open incision. Surgeons then remove the cyst through the nose and nasal cavities.
EEA surgery offers the benefits of no incisions to heal, no disfigurement, and a faster recovery time.
Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
| Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit www.healthwise.org
For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.
UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.
Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.
Pittsburgh, PA, USA | UPMC.com