Sacral Tarlov perineurial cysts: a systematic review of treatment options

J Neurosurg Spine 40:375–388, 2024

Tarlov perineurial spinal cysts (TCs) are an underrecognized cause of spinal neuropathic symptoms. TCs form within the sensory nerve root sleeves, where CSF extends distally and can accumulate pathologically. Typically, they develop at the sacral dermatomes where the nerve roots are under the highest hydrostatic pressure and lack enclosing vertebral foramina. In total, 90% of patients are women, and genetic disorders that weaken connective tissues, e.g., Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, convey considerable risk. Most small TCs are asymptomatic and do not require treatment, but even incidental visualizations should be documented in case symptoms develop later. Symptomatic TCs most commonly cause sacropelvic dermatomal neuropathic pain, as well as bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunction. Large cysts routinely cause muscle atrophy and weakness by compressing the ventral motor roots, and multiple cysts or multiroot compression by one large cyst can cause even greater cauda equina syndromes. Rarely, giant cysts erode the sacrum or extend as intrapelvic masses. Disabling TCs require consideration for surgical intervention.

The authors’ systematic review of treatment analyzed 31 case series of interventional percutaneous procedures and open surgical procedures. The surgical series were smaller and reported somewhat better outcomes with longer term follow-up but slightly higher risks. When data were lacking, authorial expertise and case reports informed details of the specific interventional and surgical techniques, as well as medical, physical, and psychological management.

Cyst-wrapping surgery appeared to offer the best longterm outcomes by permanently reducing cyst size and reconstructing the nerve root sleeves. This curtails ongoing injury to the axons and neuronal death, and may also promote axonal regeneration to improve somatic and autonomic sacral nerve function.

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