Tarlov cysts: An overlooked clinical problem

Kieran J. Murphy, David A. Nussbaum, Susan Schnupp, Donlin Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Symptomatic Tarlov cysts typically cause chronic pelvic and lower extremity pain and sacral nerve root radiculopathy. Historically, open surgical treatment involved significant patient morbidity, particularly postoperative cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks and infection. These CSF leaks often required multiple surgical procedures to seal. Over the past 20 years, there have been two or three isolated case reports of computed tomography (CT)-guided needle aspirations that offered limited evidence of treatment efficacy and safety. Some have reported high rates of postprocedure aseptic meningitis that were not well explained. These poor results dissuaded physicians from caring for these patients. As a group these patients are usually treated dismissively and told their cysts are asymptomatic and their pain must be coming from somewhere else. Many of them have had an unnecessary discectomy or a spinal fusion, and when these procedures did not relieve their pain they were told they are a "failed back patient". We have treated more than a hundred patients with symptomatic Tarlov cysts by CT fluoroscopic-guided needle aspiration and fibrin injection and have had excellent results with no meaningful complications and never a case of aseptic meningitis. We believe this is a safe, highly effective first-line treatment for symptomatic Tarlov cysts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-167
Number of pages5
JournalSeminars in Musculoskeletal Radiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2011


  • MRI
  • Tarlov cysts
  • fibrin
  • radiculopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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