Sport-related structural brain injury associated with arachnoid cysts: A systematic review and quantitative analysis

Scott L. Zuckerman, Colin T. Prather, Aaron M. Yengo-Kahn, Gary S. Solomon, Allen K. Sills, Christopher M. Bonfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective Arachnoid cysts (ACs) are congenital lesions bordered by an arachnoid membrane. Researchers have postulated that individuals with an AC demonstrate a higher rate of structural brain injury after trauma. Given the potential neurological consequences of a structural brain injury requiring neurosurgical intervention, the authors sought to perform a systematic review of sport-related structural-brain injury associated with ACs with a corresponding quantitative analysis. Methods Titles and abstracts were searched systematically across the following databases: PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, and PsycINFO. The review was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement. Peer-reviewed case reports, case series, or observational studies that reported a structural brain injury due to a sport or recreational activity (hereafter referred to as sport-related) with an associated AC were included. Patients were excluded if they did not have an AC, suffered a concussion without structural brain injury, or sustained the injury during a non-sport-related activity (e.g., fall, motor vehicle collision). Descriptive statistical analysis and time to presentation data were summarized. Univariate logistic regression models to assess predictors of neurological deficit, open craniotomy, and cystoperitoneal shunt were completed. Results After an initial search of 994 original articles, 52 studies were found that reported 65 cases of sport-related structural brain injury associated with an AC. The median age at presentation was 16 years (range 4-75 years). Headache was the most common presenting symptom (98%), followed by nausea and vomiting in 49%. Thirteen patients (21%) presented with a neurological deficit, most commonly hemiparesis. Open craniotomy was the most common form of treatment (49%). Bur holes and cyst fenestration were performed in 29 (45%) and 31 (48%) patients, respectively. Seven patients (11%) received a cystoperitoneal shunt. Four cases reported medical management only without any surgical intervention. No significant predictors were found for neurological deficit or open craniotomy. In the univariate model predicting the need for a cystoperitoneal shunt, the odds of receiving a shunt decreased as age increased (p = 0.004, OR 0.62 [95% CI 0.45-0.86]) and with male sex (p = 0.036, OR 0.15 [95% CI 0.03-0.88]). Conc lusions This systematic review yielded 65 cases of sport-related structural brain injury associated with ACs. The majority of patients presented with chronic symptoms, and recovery was reported generally to be good. Although the review is subject to publication bias, the authors do not find at present that there is contraindication for patients with an AC to participate in sports, although parents and children should be counseled appropriately. Further studies are necessary to better evaluate AC characteristics that could pose a higher risk of adverse events after trauma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE9
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Arachnoid cyst
  • Hygroma
  • Return to play
  • Sports concussion
  • Subdural hemorrhage
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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