Pediatric symptomatic Rathke cleft cyst compared with cystic craniopharyngioma

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Introduction: Symptomatic Rathke cleft cysts (RCCs) are rarely detected in neuroradiological screening and are less commonly found in children than in adults. However, when RCCs are observed in children, it is important to carefully distinguish a RCC from a cystic craniopharyngioma (CP) even if surgically treated or conservatively followed up. Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of clinical data from 11 patients with symptomatic RCCs whose ages were under 18 years and compared the data with data from 15 age- and sex-matched patients with cystic CP who were treated at our institute. Results: The mean age of the patients with RCCs was 12.2 years (range, 6–18). There were six males and five females. As initial symptoms, nine patients presented with headache, while two each had impaired visual function, diabetes insipidus, and activity loss. The 14 patients with CP suffered from impaired visual function. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) mainly showed hyperintensity on T1-weighted images (WIs) and hypointensity on T2-WI in patients with RCC. However, patients with CP had characteristic hyperintensity on T2-WI. The average maximum diameter of the RCCs was 19.0 mm on average (range, 8–33 mm). The RCCs were thus significantly smaller than CPs (34.9 mm; range, 21–54 mm). The RCCs were usually oval or dumbbell-shaped and regular in appearance, while the larger CPs were lobular and irregular. A preoperative endocrinological evaluation revealed insufficiencies in four axes in five patients with RCC. Postoperative endocrinological status improved in three patients, remained unchanged in three, and worsened in one. The gonadotropin axis was damaged in a majority (nine) of the patients with CP preoperatively. Postoperative evaluation revealed deficits in five axes in 14 patients with CP, which is a significantly different trend than observed in patients with RCC. Eight patients underwent surgical procedures (transsphenoidal surgery (TSS) in four, craniotomy in four). Two of these patients experienced a recurrence of the cysts. One of these patients subsequently underwent two craniotomies followed by radiation and other underwent TSS. Among the three conservatively treated patients, two experienced a transient worsening of their symptoms along with cyst enlargement. However, none of the three conservatively treated patients required an operation. Conclusions: When RCCs become symptomatic in children, the most common symptom they lead to is headache. The cysts are commonly small, regular, and oval in shape. Hypointensity of cyst contents on MRI is a characteristic of RCCs, which distinguishes them from CPs. Surgical intervention can be effective and lead to the relief of symptoms without a high rate of complications. However, there seems to be a relatively high recurrence rate following surgery. Thus, if the patient’s symptoms remain minor, the surgical treatment option should be used only when prudent, as the patient’s symptoms may improve over time. © 2016 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

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