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Long-Term Effectiveness of Direct CT-Guided Aspiration and Fenestration of Symptomatic Lumbar Facet Synovial Cysts.


Background and purpose

Lumbar facet synovial cysts are commonly seen in facet degenerative arthropathy and may be symptomatic when narrowing the spinal canal or compressing nerve roots. The purpose of this study was to analyze the safety, effectiveness, and long-term outcomes of direct CT-guided lumbar facet synovial cyst aspiration and fenestration for symptom relief and for obviating an operation.

Materials and methods

We retrospectively reviewed the medical records and imaging studies of 64 consecutive patients between 2006 and 2016 who underwent 85 CT-guided lumbar facet synovial cyst fenestration procedures in our department. We recorded patient demographics, lumbar facet synovial cyst imaging characteristics, presenting symptoms, change in symptoms after the procedure, and whether they underwent a subsequent operation. We also assessed long-term outcomes from the medical records and via follow-up telephone surveys with patients.


Direct CT-guided lumbar facet synovial cyst puncture was technically successful in 98% of procedures. At first postprocedural follow-up, 86% of patients had a complete or partial symptomatic response. During a mean follow-up of 49 months, 56% of patients had partial or complete long-term relief without the need for an operation; 44% of patients underwent an operation. Patients with calcified, thick-rimmed, or low T2 signal intensity cysts were less likely to respond to the procedure and more likely to need an operation.


CT-guided direct lumbar facet synovial cyst aspiration and fenestration procedures are safe, effective, and minimally invasive for symptomatic treatment of lumbar synovial facet cysts. This procedure obviates an operation in a substantial number of patients, even at long-term follow-up, and should be considered before surgical intervention.

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