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Rathke’s Cleft Cysts

Rathke’s cleft cysts (RCCs) are benign cysts — fluid-filled growths — in the pituitary gland. They develop in the space between the front (anterior) and back (posterior) parts of the pituitary gland.

Pre-operative images of patient with Rathke's Cleft Cysts
pre-op sagittal pituitary tumor (Rathke's cleft cyst)pre-op coronal pituitary tumor (Rathke's cleft cyst)pre-op axial pituitary tumor (Rathke's cleft cyst)
Post-operative images of patient who underwent a minimally invasive craniotomy (eyebrow craniotomy) for resection
post-op sagittal pituitary tumor (Rathke's cleft cyst)post-op coronal pituitary tumor (Rathke's cleft cyst)post-op axial pituitary tumor (Rathke's cleft cyst)

Symptoms of a Rathke’s cleft cyst:

Sometimes these cysts do not cause any symptoms, but can be seen on an MRI. The most common symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Vision problems that cannot be easily explained
  • Mood swings or behavior changes
  • Weight change
  • Diabetes insipidus

Diagnosis of a Rathke’s cleft cyst:

Blood and urine tests to measure hormone levels and medical imaging provide the best means of diagnosing pituitary tumors. For an RCC, an MRI or a CT scan of the area surrounding the pituitary gland will be performed. In addition, a CT scan (with or without contrast) may be performed to provide a detailed image of the brain and pituitary gland.

Treatment of a Rathke’s cleft cyst:

Specific treatment for a craniopharyngioma is determined by the neurosurgeon and endocrinologist (hormonal disorder specialist) leading the Pituitary Tumor team. Based on the specific nature of the patient's RCC, treatment may include removal of the cyst through a surgical procedure called "eyebrow craniotomy", which is a minimally invasive endonasal transsphenoidal surgery, which is performed through the nose.

For more information, contact the Johns Hopkins Pituitary Tumor Center at 410-955-GLAN (4526).


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