Advancements in imaging and an understanding of the pathomechanism for intraneural ganglion cyst formation have led to increased awareness and recognition of this lesion. However, the precise role of imaging has been advocated for but not formally evaluated.

We performed a systematic review of the world literature to study the frequency of imaging used to diagnose intraneural ganglion cysts at different sites and compared trends in identifying joint connections.

We identified 941 cases of intraneural ganglion cysts, of which 673 had published imaging. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI, n = 527) and ultrasonography (US, n = 123) were the most commonly reported. They occurred most frequently in the common peroneal nerve (n = 570), followed by the ulnar nerve at the elbow (n = 88), and the tibial nerve at the ankle (n = 58). A joint connection was identified in 375 cases (48%), with 62% of MRIs showing a joint connection, followed by 16% on US, and 6% on computed tomography (CT). MRI was statistically more likely to identify a joint connection than was US (P < 0.01). In the last decade, joint connections have been identified with increasing frequency using preoperative imaging, with up to 75% of cases reporting joint connections.

Preoperative imaging plays an important role in establishing the diagnosis of intraneural ganglion cyst as well as treatment planning. Imaging has proved superior to the sole reliance of operative exposure to identify a joint connection, which is necessary to treat the underlying disease. Failure to identify cyst connections on imaging can result in an inability to truly address the underlying pathoanatomy at the time of definitive surgery, leading to a risk for clinical recurrence. Therefore, management should be guided by an intersection between new knowledge presented in the literature, clinical expertise, and surgeon experience.

Polls results

On a scale of 1 to 10, rate how much this article will change your clinical practice?

NO change
BIG change
68% Article relates to my practice (26/38)
15% Article does not relate to my practice (6/38)
15% Undecided (6/38)

Will this article lead to more cost-effective healthcare?

52% Yes (20/38)
28% No (11/38)
18% Undecided (7/38)

Was this article biased? (commercial or personal)

5% Yes (2/38)
84% No (32/38)
10% Undecided (4/38)

What level of evidence do you think this article is?

5% Level 1 (2/38)
18% Level 2 (7/38)
52% Level 3 (20/38)
13% Level 4 (5/38)
10% Level 5 (4/38)