Juxta facet cysts are a common cause of low back and radicular pain. They are mostly associated with degenerative facet joints and spondylolisthesis. The study focuses on long-term outcomes after microsurgical treatment without fusion.

From April 2002 to April 2004, 31 patients (23 female and 8 male) underwent microsurgical resection of lumbar juxta facet cysts. The patient age ranged from 31 to 83 years (mean 67.2 years). The most affected level was L4-L5 (19 patients), followed by L3-L4 (9 patients). Fourteen patients additionally had spondylolisthesis of the involved segment. All patients had signs of nerve root compression and had received conservative treatment preoperatively. We performed limited bone removal (sparing the facet joints) and cyst resection in 27 patients. In four patients, cyst resection and standard laminectomy were performed owing to spinal stenosis.

Conservative treatment was without any effect in all patients. At follow-up, 12-30 months after surgery, excellent to good outcome was achieved in 25 of 31 patients (80.7%), and 6 patients (19.3%) showed fair results. Persistent low back pain was more common in patients with spondylolisthesis than in the other group (6/14 vs 3/17); this may be due to instability. Spondylolisthesis did not progress or become mobile after surgery radiographically in any of our patients.

Conservative therapy does not adequately improve symptoms in patients with intraspinal juxta facet cysts and radicular signs. Juxta facet cysts can be treated effectively with a minimally invasive microsurgical approach. This may be of particular significance when the cysts are associated with spondylolisthesis, minimizing the risk of instability and the need for fusion. In a selected group of patients with persistent low back pain, fusion may become necessary to improve symptoms.