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Robert J. Spinner, Stephen W. Carmichael, and John L. D. Atkinson

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Robert J. Spinner, Kimberly K. Amrami, Diana Angius, Huan Wang, and Stephen W. Carmichael

Object

Previously the authors demonstrated that peroneal and tibial intraneural ganglia arising from the superior tibiofibular joint may occasionally extend proximally within the epineurium to reach the sciatic nerve. The dynamic nature of these cysts, dependent on intraarticular pressures, may give rise to differing clinical and imaging presentations that have remained unexplained until now. To identify the pathogenesis of these unusual cysts and to correlate their atypical magnetic resonance (MR) imaging appearance, the authors retrospectively reviewed their own experience as well as the published literature on these types of intraneural ganglia.

Methods

A careful review of MR images obtained in 22 patients with intraneural ganglia located about the knee region (18 peroneal and four tibial intraneural ganglia) allowed the authors to substantiate three different patterns: outer (epifascicular) epineurial (20 cases); inner (interfascicular) epineurial (one case); and combined outer and inner epineurial (one case). In these cases serial MR images allowed the investigators to track the movement of the cyst within the same layer of the epineurium. All lesions had connections to the superior tibiofibular joint. Nine patients were identified as having lesions with sciatic nerve extension. Seven patients harboring an outer epineurial cyst (six in whom the cyst involved the peroneal nerve and one in whom it involved the tibial nerve) had signs of sciatic nerve cross-over, with the cyst seen in the sciatic nerve and/or other terminal branches. In only two of these cases had the cyst previously been recognized to have sciatic nerve involvement. In contrast, in one case an inner epineurial cyst involving the tibial nerve ascended within the tibial division of the sciatic nerve and did not cross over. A single patient had a combination of both outer and inner epineurial cysts; these were easily distinguished by their distinctive imaging patterns.

Conclusions

This anatomical compartmentalization of intraneural cysts can be used to explain varied clinical and imaging patterns of cleavage planes for cyst formation and propagation. Compartmentalization elucidates the mechanism for cases of outer epineurial cysts in which there are primary ascent, sciatic cross-over, and descent of the lesion down terminal branches; correlates these cysts' atypical MR imaging features; and contrasts a different pattern of inner epineurial cysts in which ascent and descent occur without cross-over. The authors present data demonstrating that the dynamic phases of these intraneural ganglia frequently involve the sciatic nerve. Their imaging features are subtle and serve to explain the underrecognition and underreporting of the longitudinal extension of these cysts. Importantly, cysts extending to the sciatic nerve are still derived from the superior tibiofibular joint. Combined with the authors' previous experimental data, the current observations help the reader understand intraneural ganglia with a different, deeper degree of anatomical detail.