Intraneural ganglion cysts: A systematic review and reinterpretation of the world's literature

Nicholas M. Desy, Huan Wang, Mohanad Ahmed Ibrahim Elshiekh, Shota Tanaka, Tae Woong Choi, B. Matthew Howe, Robert J. Spinner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: The etiology of intraneural ganglion cysts has been controversial. In recent years, substantial evidence has been presented to support the articular (synovial) theory for their pathogenesis. The authors sought to 1) perform a systematic review of the world's literature on intraneural cysts, and 2) reinterpret available published MR images in articles by other authors to identify unrecognized joint connections. METHODS: In Part 1, all cases were analyzed for demographic data, duration of symptoms, the presence of a history of trauma, whether electromyography or nerve conduction studies were performed, the type of imaging, surgical treatment, presence of a joint connection, intraneural cyst recurrence, and postoperative imaging. Two univariate analyses were completed: 1) to compare the proportion of intraneural ganglion cyst publications per decade and 2) to assess the number of recurrences from 1914 to 2003 compared with the years 2004-2015. Three multivariate regression models were used to identify risk factors for intraneural cyst recurrence. In Part 2, the authors analyzed all available published MR images and obtained MR images from selected cases in which joint connections were not identified by the original authors, specifically looking for unrecognized joint connections. Two univariate analyses were done: 1) to determine a possible association between the identification of a joint connection and obtaining an MRI and 2) to assess the number of joint connections reported from 1914 to 2003 compared with 2004 to 2015. RESULTS: In Part 1, 417 articles (645 patients) were selected for analysis. Joint connections were identified in 313 intraneural cysts (48%). Both intraneural ganglion cyst cases and cyst recurrences were more frequently reported since 2004 (statistically significant difference for both). There was a statistically significant association between cyst recurrence and percutaneous aspiration as well as failure to disconnect the articular branch or address the joint. In Part 2, the authors identified 43 examples of joint connections that initially went unrecognized: 27 based on their retrospective MR image reinterpretation of published cases and 16 of 16 cases from their sampling of original MR images from published cases. Overall, joint connections were more commonly found in patients who received an MRI examination and were more frequently reported during the years 2004 to 2015 (statistically significant difference for both). CONCLUSIONS: This comprehensive review of the world's literature and the MR images further supports the articular (synovial) theory and provides baseline data for future investigators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)615-630
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2016


  • Articular (synovial) theory
  • Intraneural ganglia
  • Intraneural ganglion cyst
  • Peripheral nerve
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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