Cystic transverse limb of the articular branch: A pathognomonic sign for peroneal intraneural ganglia at the superior tibiofibular joint

Robert J. Spinner, Nicholas M. Desy, Kimberly K. Amrami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: The preoperative diagnosis of peroneal intraneural ganglia has been difficult to establish, and superior tibiofibular joint connections may not be identified. Misdiagnosis leads to incomplete treatment in that the articular branch connection may not be addressed, which can result in cyst recurrences. METHODS: We analyzed 20 surgically confirmed cases of paraarticular cysts arising from the superior tibiofibular joint to assess for joint connections and to determine common magnetic resonance imaging characteristics in intraneural ganglia that would allow distinction from extraneural ganglia. We identified and tested three radiographic signs describing the cysts and analyzed cyst morphology (i.e., size, shape, pattern), muscle compartments affected (i.e., for denervation), and neighboring joints (for associated pathology). RESULTS: Twelve cases of peroneal intraneural ganglia and eight cases of extraneural ganglia were connected to the superior tibiofibular joint. Retrospective review confirmed that these cysts were frequently misdiagnosed, and joint connections often were not recognized. The magnetic resonance imaging appearance of peroneal intraneural ganglia was stereotypical. These intraneural ganglia were tubular, whereas the extraneural were more mass-like. The tail sign was 100% sensitive for identifying joint connections but could not distinguish between intra- and extraneural cysts. The "transverse limb" sign (cystic material within the portion of the articular branch traversing the anterior surface of the fibula) was present in all cases of peroneal intraneural ganglia and none of the extraneural ganglia. The signet ring sign (the eccentric displacement of fascicles by cyst within the epineurium) was 100% sensitive for peroneal intraneural ganglia and 86% specific (it did not identify two cysts that did not extend more proximally into the common peroneal nerve). There was 100% interobserver concordance between the prospective interpretations by a single, blinded, radiologist and a trained first-year medical student with intraoperative findings. In this series, muscle denervation was more common and more pronounced in the intraneural than extraneural ganglia. Abnormalities in neighboring joints were noted nearly universally. CONCLUSION: This article demonstrates reproducible magnetic resonance imaging features that will easily allow one to identify the joint connection (the tail sign) in paraarticular cysts and also to distinguish between peroneal intraneural and extraneural ganglia (the transverse limb sign and the signet ring sign) at the superior tibiofibular joint with accuracy and confidence and with subsequent improvement in treatment and patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-166
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Cysts
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Peroneal intraneural ganglia
  • Superior tibiofibular joint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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