Clinical study| Volume 62, P112-116, April 2019

Degenerative symptomatic spinal synovial cysts: Clinical presentation and functional outcome

Published:December 20, 2018DOI:


      • Epidemiological and clinical patterns of symptomatic SSC are similar to those of other degenerative spinal diseases.
      • Surgical outcome was excellent with immediate symptom relief and recovery, which further improved over time.
      • Low complication rate further supports surgery as a good treatment option for patients with SSC.


      Spinal synovial cysts (SSC) are a rare but important differential diagnosis for degenerative or space-occupying spinal lesions. There is controversy about the most beneficial treatment, which can be conservative or surgical. We provide a review of our surgical data for purposes of quality assessment and improvement.
      5313 patients with surgically treated degenerative spinal diseases were analyzed retrospectively. The incidence of SSC was 1.14%. 61 patients (31 women, 30 men; mean age 65.3 years) with SSC were included in this study. The charts, surgical reports, and radiographic data were reviewed for demographics, duration of symptoms, size of SSC, anatomical site, surgical approach, Visual Analog Scale (VAS), and neurological performance including the Japanese Orthopedic Association Score (JOA score) and the Frankel score.
      Laminotomy was the most common surgical approach in 93.4% of the patients followed by hemilaminectomy in 6.6%. The predominant site of SSC was the lumbar spine in 86.9%. 95.1% had experienced local and radicular pain as the predominant symptom and 47.5% preoperative sensory and motor deficits. At discharge, the JOA score was significantly increased compared to admission (median value of 17). At follow-up, 94.4% had normal neurological function and 5.6% showed grade 1 neurological deficits. Leg pain had decreased in 94.4% and back pain in 70.6%. At long-term follow-up, all patients presented neurologically stable. The median value for pain classified with the VAS had decreased from 6 at admission to 1 at long-term follow-up. During long-term follow-up, 6 patients (9.8%) had developed spinal instability requiring stabilization, 5 patients had received facet joint infiltration due to symptomatic facet joint syndrome.
      The epidemiological and clinical patterns of symptomatic SSC are similar to those of other degenerative spinal diseases. Thus, SSC should always be considered as a rare but important differential diagnosis. Surgical outcome was excellent with immediate symptom relief and recovery, which further improved over time. Our data support the benefit of surgical treatment and may be useful in recommending neurosurgical therapy to patients with SSC.


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