Subaxial cervical synovial cysts: Report of 35 histologically confirmed surgically treated cases and review of the literature

Mark K. Lyons, Barry D. Birch, William E. Krauss, Naresh P. Patel, Eric W. Nottmeier, Orland K. Boucher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


STUDY DESIGN.: Retrospective study OBJECTIVE.: The authors' aim of the present study is to report their experience with subaxial cervical synovial cysts hoping to provide further insight into these lesions including the presenting symptoms, possible mechanisms of cyst development associated with cervical level, surgical treatments and clinical outcomes. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA.: Synovial cysts are relatively common in the lumbar spine and very uncommonly identified in the subaxial cervical spine. Several case reports and a few small series have been reported in the literature over the past four decades. METHODS.: The authors retrospectively reviewed the cases of 35 patients who underwent surgical treatment for histologically confirmed symptomatic subaxial cervical synovial cysts between 1993 and 2009. The presenting symptoms, age, sex, cervical level, operation, complications and outcomes were analyzed in this cohort. Preoperative and postoperative neurologic assessments were done by staff neurologists independent of the operating surgeon. This study was approved by the Mayo Clinic institutional review board. RESULTS.: Thirty-five patients underwent surgical treatment for their synovial cysts and follow-up for at least 12 months postoperatively. The mean follow-up time was 49 months (range, 12-134). There were no deaths associated with the surgery. There was one postoperative infection in a patient undergoing a decompressive laminectomy and posterior instrumented fusion. Patient outcomes were assessed using the Modified Rankin Score for 12 patients was 0, 17 patients was 1, 4 patients was 2, and 2 patients was 3. CONCLUSION.: This series of 35 patients with subaxial cervical synovial cysts surgically treated over a period of 17 years illustrates the relative rarity of these lesions. Magnetic resonance imaging is currently the optimal radiographic study to identify these lesions. Surgical resection can be an effective treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1285-E1289
Issue number20
StatePublished - Sep 15 2011


  • myelopathy
  • radiculopathy
  • subaxial cervical spine
  • synovial cyst

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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