The purpose of this study is to call attention to the diagnosis of spinal cyst caused by lumbar disc herniation. Reviewing a total of 11 cases of lumbar spinal cyst that have been encountered in our spinal practice, we propose our views concerning the pathology of this lesion.

The clinical findings of lumbar spinal cyst are identical to those in acute disc herniation such as low back pain and radiculopathy. The characteristics of imaging study are as follows; The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) demonstrates a relatively large, rounded mass postero-laterally to the vertebral body. These lesions are isointense relative to the intervertebral disc on T1-weighted images and homogeneously hyperintense on T2. A gadolinium -DTPA-enhanced MRI shows a rim-enhancing lesion. A discogram reveals leakage of the contrast medium into the mass.

The operative findings demonstrated encapsulated soft tissue masses which contained bloody fluid and small fragments of herniated disc tissue. The pathologic examinations revealed fibrous tissue with hemosiderin deposit in cyst wall and degenerative disc materials with inflammatory cell infiltration.

This type of lumbar spinal cyst has been recognized as spinal epidural hematoma in recent years. Wiltse suggested that epidural hematoma may result from tearing of fragile epidural veins due to acute disc disruption. However, MRI characteristics of hematoma are not identical with those with lumbar spinal cyst. It is more likely that the lesions showing the pattern of changes are herniated disc tissue accompanied by hemorrhage and inflammation. If hernial tissue is covered with some membranous susbtance, formation of cystic lesions is understandable. Hence, we hypothesize that lesions, in which lysis liquefaction and absorption of the herniated disc tissue associated with inflammatory response have progressed, and the herniated disc tissue has completely disappeared, may be filled solely with bloody fluid, showing an appearance like cysts.


  • The abstracts were prepared by Mr Simon Donell. Correspondence should be addressed to him at the Department of Orthopaedics, Norfolk & Norwich Hospital, Level 4, Centre Block, Colney Lane, Norwich NR4 7UY, United Kingdom.