Colloid cysts are rare, histologically benign lesions that may result in obstructive hydrocephalus and death. Understanding the natural history of colloid cysts has been challenging given their low incidence and the small number of cases in most reported series. This has complicated efforts to establish reliable prognostic factors and surgical indications, particularly for asymptomatic patients with incidental lesions. Risk factors for obstructive hydrocephalus in the setting of colloid cysts remain poorly defined, and there are no grading scales on which to develop standard management strategies.
The authors performed a single-center retrospective review of all cases of colloid cysts of the third ventricle treated over nearly 2 decades at Washington University. Univariate analysis was used to identify clinical, imaging, and anatomical factors associated with 2 outcome variables: symptomatic clinical status and presentation with obstructive hydrocephalus. A risk-prediction model was defined using bootstrapped logistic regression. Predictive factors were then combined into a simple 5-point clinical scale referred to as the Colloid Cyst Risk Score (CCRS), and this was evaluated with receiver-operator characteristics.
The study included 163 colloid cysts, more than half of which were discovered incidentally. More than half of the incidental cysts (58%) were followed with surveillance neuroimaging (mean follow-up 5.1 years). Five patients with incidental cysts (8.8%) progressed and underwent resection. No patient with an incidental, asymptomatic colloid cyst experienced acute obstructive hydrocephalus or sudden neurological deterioration in the absence of antecedent trauma. Nearly half (46.2%) of symptomatic patients presented with hydrocephalus. Eight patients (12.3%) presented acutely, and there were 2 deaths due to obstructive hydrocephalus and herniation. The authors identified several factors that were strongly correlated with the 2 outcome variables and defined third ventricle risk zones where colloid cysts can cause obstructive hydrocephalus. No patient with a lesion outside these risk zones presented with obstructive hydrocephalus. The CCRS had significant predictive capacity for symptomatic clinical status (area under the curve [AUC] 0.917) and obstructive hydrocephalus (AUC 0.845). A CCRS ≥ 4 was significantly associated with obstructive hydrocephalus (p < 0.0001, RR 19.4).
Patients with incidentally discovered colloid cysts can experience both lesion enlargement and symptom progression or less commonly, contraction and symptom regression. Incidental lesions rarely cause acute obstructive hydrocephalus or sudden neurological deterioration in the absence of antecedent trauma. Nearly one-half of patients with symptomatic colloid cysts present with obstructive hydrocephalus, which has an associated 3.1% risk of death. The CCRS is a simple 5-point clinical tool that can be used to identify symptomatic lesions and stratify the risk of obstructive hydrocephalus. External validation of the CCRS will be necessary before objective surgical indications can be established. Surgical intervention should be considered for all patients with CCRS ≥ 4, as they represent the high-risk subgroup.