Subdural effusions (SDEs) can complicate arachnoid cysts of the middle cranial fossa (ACMFs). While there is a consensus that at least in adults asymptomatic ACMFs should not be operated, those with concomitant subdural and/or intracystic effusions are clinically apparent in the majority of cases and should be surgically treated. But it remains unclear, which surgical procedure is best.
Methods Since 1980, 60 out of 343 patients with an ACMF presented with accompanying SDEs. Four categories of SDEs were differentiated radiologically. This collective was controlled in a follow-up study up to 60 months after con- servative or operative treatment by clinical and radiological means.
Results In 54 of the 60 patients, we saw an indication for surgical treatment. Twenty-nine patients received a burr hole, 13 cases were treated by craniotomy, seven by endoscopical means, three patients underwent shunting and two combined procedures. Six patients were treated conservatively. An excellent final clinical outcome was observed in 55 cases. While craniotomy succeeded best to reduce the cyst volume in postoperative CT, the final clinical outcome did not differ significantly compared with burr hole trepanation.
Conclusions Patients with small effusions can be treated conservatively in selected cases. Based on our experience, we prefer a differentiated therapy. As first procedure, burr hole and subdural drainage were performed, leaving the cyst alone, seeming sufficient for the majority of cases. Craniotomy or endoscopical means should be reserved as treatment of choice for special cases, depending on category and acuteness of SDE and size/localisation of the ACMF.