Rathke's Cleft Cyst

About Rathke’s cleft cyst

Rathke’s cleft cyst is a fluid-filled mass (cyst) usually found within or above the pituitary gland. It can cause loss of hormonal function, vision loss and headaches.

Many people who have Rathke’s cleft cyst experience no symptoms. Often, the cyst is discovered when a patient is having an MRI for a different reason. These small cysts may require no treatment. However, if the cyst grows larger, it can cause problems for other organs, including the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland regulates a variety of hormones and the cyst’s symptoms can differ depending on which part of the gland is affected.

Some symptoms include:

  • Vision changes.
  • Fatigue.
  • Confusion, personality changes.
  • Hormonal changes, including growth, weight gain, body temperature issues, menstrual problems and many more.

Patients with possible Rathke’s cleft cyst will need a complete pituitary hormonal evaluation (prolactin, cortisol, ACTH, IGF-1, LH, FSH, testosterone and estradiol, free T4 and TSH as needed) and an MRI or CT scan to further evaluate the cyst.

For patients who have symptoms from a Rathke’s cleft cyst, transsphenoidal surgery (via the nose) is the recommended treatment. This technique requires specialized surgical training and equipment. The neurosurgeon will drain the fluid from the cyst and/or remove the cyst.

In about 80 to 95% of cases, surgeons can fully remove the Rathke’s cleft cyst. After surgery, patients will need yearly MRIs to check for regrowth of the cyst. About 20 percent of Rathke’s cleft cysts grow back over five to 10 years.

The OHSU Pituitary Center is a national leader in research related to pituitary conditions. Our neurosurgeons at OHSU perform more than 100 pituitary tumor and skull base surgeries every year.

Clinical trials are the last step in a lengthy process of research. These studies allow scientists to test the value of their research to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases and disabilities. Each clinical trial is an opportunity to test a promising invention or treatment.

The OHSU Pituitary Center is a national leader in research related to pituitary conditions.

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