Rathke cleft cyst: Diagnostic and therapeutic considerations

Jan L. Kasperbauer, Laura J. Orvidas, John L.D. Atkinson, Charles F. Abboud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Objective: To highlight diagnostic and therapeutic issues about Rathke cleft cysts for otorhinolaryngologists. Study Design: Retrospective. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed data collected on Rathke cleft cysts between 1978 and 1998: presenting symptoms, visual acuity, surgical treatment, complications, recurrences, and effect on daily activity. Results: Twenty-nine patients were diagnosed with a Rathke cleft cyst (11 male and 18 female patients; mean age, 46 y). The most common presenting symptom was head pain (55%). The majority (59%) of cases demonstrated suprasellar extension on preoperative imaging, with pituitary dysfunction identified in 66%. Recurrence occurred in eight patients (28%). Postoperative visual function improved or remained stable in all patients. Persistent pituitary dysfunction required hormonal supplementation in seven patients (24%). Only one patient with an astrocytoma in addition to a Rathke cleft cyst did not maintain the ability to perform normally on an assessment of activities of daily living, a striking contrast to patients with craniopharyngioma. Conclusions: Conclusions were as follows: 1) Rathke cleft cysts must be considered as sources of head pain and pituitary dysfunction. 2) Persistent or recurrent cyst formation occurs in approximately one-third of the patients. Recurrence may take many years, and follow-up imaging is recommended for at least a decade. 3) Maintenance of the ability to perform the activities of normal daily living can be expected after surgical management. 4) Most Rathke cleft cysts can be managed through transnasal exposure of the sella. 5) Packing the sella may result in predisposition to recurrent cyst formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1836-1839
Number of pages4
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2002


  • Diagnosis
  • Pituitary function
  • Rathke cleft cyst
  • Surgery
  • Symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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