Systematic review / meta-analysis|Articles in Press

Symptomatic secondary spinal arachnoid cysts: a systematic review

  • Author Footnotes
    # These authors contributed equally to this work.
    Yu-bo Wang
    # These authors contributed equally to this work.
    Department of Oncological Neurosurgery, First Hospital of Jilin University, Xinmin st No1, Changchun, China
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  • Author Footnotes
    # These authors contributed equally to this work.
    Dan-hua Wang
    # These authors contributed equally to this work.
    Department of Pathology, First Hospital of Jilin University, Xinmin st No1, Changchun City, Jilin Province, China
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  • Shuang-lin Deng
    Corresponding author. Department of Oncological Neurosurgery, First Hospital of Jilin University, Xinmin st No1, Changchun City, Jilin Province, China. Tel: (86) 136 54396993.
    Department of Oncological Neurosurgery, First Hospital of Jilin University, Xinmin st No1, Changchun, China
    Search for articles by this author
  • Author Footnotes
    # These authors contributed equally to this work.



      Secondary spinal arachnoid cysts have rarely been reported but present significant challenges for management. These cysts could be anteriorly located with long rostral–caudal extensions and many are related to arachnoiditis, leading to difficult-to-treat disorders. Thus far, due to the scarcity of reports, the features of the disease and the optimal therapeutic strategies remain unclear.


      To investigate clinical features and the optimal treatment modalities of secondary spinal arachnoid cysts compared with primary spinal arachnoid cysts.


      Systematic review.


      Systematic review identified 103 secondary cases from 80 studies and reports.


      Condition of symptom relief and duration of treatment response were analyzed.


      An electronic literature search of the PubMed database was conducted for studies on secondary spinal arachnoid cysts between 1990 and 2022. Non-English publications, nonhuman studies, reports of a primary cyst, studies not including case details, and studies of nonsymptomatic cases were excluded.


      This systematic review included 103 secondary cases. The most commonly reported etiologies were iatrogenic factors, trauma, and subarachnoid hemorrhage, accounting for 88 intradural extramedullary, 11 extradural, one intradural/extradural, one interdural, and one intramedullary spinal arachnoid cyst after a median duration of 30, 12, and 9 months, respectively. Extradural cysts were more prone to occur at dorsal locations and affect thoracic segments (mean cyst length: 3.4 segments). Intradural cysts showed a relatively higher ventral/dorsal ratio (1:1.09, 1.75:1, and 3.50:1 for cysts occurring from iatrogenic factors, trauma, and subarachnoid hemorrhage, respectively) and thoracic distribution, with a mean cyst length of 4.3 segments (5.1 for ventral and 3.5 for dorsal cysts). For intradural cysts, recurrence risk was lower after surgical resection than after fenestration/marsupialization (12-month recurrence risk: 21.43% vs 50.72%, log-rank test: p=.0248, Gehan–Breslow–Wilcoxon test: p=.0126). In cases treated with shunting, one recurrence (1/8 cases) was noted after external shunting and two recurrences (2/5 cases) after internal shunting at a median follow-up of 12 months.


      Secondary spinal arachnoid cysts, particularly intradural cysts, are rarer and more challenging to treat than primary spinal cysts. Although fenestration/marsupialization is the commonly adopted treatment, the recurrence rate is high. For unresectable cysts, shunting procedures, particularly shunting into a body cavity (eg, pleural or peritoneal cavity) away from the subarachnoid space, could be a therapeutic alternative besides fenestration/marupialization, yet its efficacy requires confirmation by more data.


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