Hemorrhagic presentation of rathke cleft cysts: A surgical case series

Lauren Schooner, Michelle A. Wedemeyer, Phillip A. Bonney, Michelle Lin, Kyle Hurth, Anna Mathew, C. Jason Liu, Mark Shiroishi, John D. Carmichael, Martin H. Weiss, Gabriel Zada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Rathke cleft cysts (RCCs) are benign sellar and suprasellar lesions commonly presenting as asymptomatic incidental fndings. Rarely, RCCs hemorrhage and mimic pituitary apoplexy on presentation. OBJECTIVE: To review a series of hemorrhagic RCCs for physicians encountering this rare presentation. METHODS: A database review of >1700 transsphenoidal pituitary operations was performed at the USC Pituitary Center to identify patients with pathologically confrmed RCCs presenting with acute symptoms and evidence of hemorrhage at the time of surgery. Surgical treatment involved transsphenoidal RCC fenestration and drainage. Clinical, endocrine, and imaging outcomes were reviewed. RESULTS: A total of 119 RCCs were identifed, and 6 (5.0%) presented with hemorrhage mimicking pituitary apoplexy. Presenting symptoms included acute onset headaches (5/6), vision loss (2/6), and oculomotor nerve palsy (n = 1). Endocrine disturbances at presentation included pre-existing amenorrhea in all female patients (3/3), hypothyroidism (n = 2), panhypopituitarism (n = 2), and one with profound hyponatremia (Na 116 meq/L). All patients underwent endonasal transsphenoidal fenestration and drainage with no major complications. Over mean follow-up of 38.4 mo, 2/2 patientswith vision lossreported improvement, and 2/5 patients with headaches reported improvement. Although all women resumed menses, patients with preoperative hypopituitarism did not experience pituitary axis improvement. Follow-up magnetic resonance imaging showed no instances of RCC recurrence with a mean imaging follow-up of 38.6 mo. CONCLUSION: RCCs occasionally present with hemorrhage and clinical symptoms that may be confused with apoplexy. Outcomes following hemorrhagic RCC treatment are excellent when treated at tertiary pituitary centers. Although hyperprolactinemia often improves following surgery, other pituitary axis defcits typically do not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)470-478
Number of pages9
JournalOperative Neurosurgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Apoplexy
  • Hemorrhage
  • Hemorrhagic
  • Pituitary
  • Rathke cleft cyst
  • Transsphenoidal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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