Epineurial compartments and their role in intraneural ganglion cyst propagation: An experimental study

Robert J. Spinner, Huan Wang, Stephen W. Carmichael, Kimberly K. Amrami, Bernd W. Scheithauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


New patterns of intraneural ganglion cyst formation are emerging that have not previously been explained in current pathoanatomic terms. We believe there are three important elements underlying the appearance of these cysts: (a) an articular branch of the nerve that connects to a nearby synovial joint; (b) ejected synovial fluid following the path of least resistance along tissue planes; and (c) the additional effects of pressure and pressure fluxes. The dynamic nature of cyst formation has become clearly apparent to us in our clinical, operative and pathologic practice, but the precise mechanism underlying the process has not been critically studied. To test our hypothesis that a fibular (peroneal) or tibial intraneural cyst derived from the superior tibiofibular joint could ascend proximally into the sciatic nerve, expand within it and descend into terminal branches of this major nerve, we designed a series of simple, qualitative laboratory experiments in two cadavers (four specimens, six experiments). Injecting dye into the outer or "epifascicular" epineurium of the fibular and the tibial nerves we observed its ascent, cross over and descent patterns in three of three specimens as well as its cross over after an outer epineurial sciatic injection. In contrast, injecting dye into the inner or "interfascicular" epineurium led to its ascent within the tibial nerve and its division within the sciatic nerve in one specimen and lack of cross over in a sciatic nerve injection. Histologic cross-sections of the nerves at varying levels demonstrated a tract of disruption within the outer epineurium of the nerve injected and the nerve(s) into which the dye, after cross over, descended. Those specimens injected in the inner epineurium demonstrated dye within this tract but without disruption of or dye intrusion into the outer epineurium. In no case did the dye pass through the perineurial layers. Coupled with our observations in previous detailed studies, these anatomic findings provide proof of concept that sciatic cross over occurs due to the filling of its common epineurial sheath; furthermore, these findings, support the unifying articular theory, even in cases wherein patterns of intraneural ganglion cyst formation are unusual. Additional work is needed to be done to correlate these anatomic findings with magnetic resonance imaging and surgical pathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)826-833
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Anatomy
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 12 2007


  • Articular branch
  • Intraneural ganglion cysts
  • Sciatic nerve
  • Superior tibiofibular joint
  • Unified theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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