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What are brain cysts? Know causes, symptoms, and critical role of neurosurgery in its treatment

Brain cysts, or intracranial cysts, are fluid-filled sacs or cavities that can form within the brain. The size and location of these cysts can vary, and they may include cerebrospinal fluid, blood, or other substances. Brain cysts can develop from a variety of underlying reasons, which are categorised under various types; read more about it

What are brain cysts? Know causes, symptoms, and critical role of neurosurgery in its treatment RBA
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First Published Oct 6, 2023, 11:42 AM IST

The human brain, a complex network of billions of neurons and synapses, is a beautiful creation. It is not, however, immune to the different medical conditions that could hinder its regular functioning. Brain cysts are one such disorder that can cause various neurological symptoms and problems. In this article, we'll look at brain cysts, their causes, symptoms, and the critical role of neurosurgery in their treatment.

Understanding Brain Cysts

Brain cysts, commonly called intracranial cysts, are fluid-filled sacs or cavities that can form within the brain. The size and location of these cysts can vary, and they may include cerebrospinal fluid, blood, or other substances. While some people may live with small, asymptomatic cysts, others may suffer from severe health issues because of larger or dangerous cysts.

What are brain cysts? Know causes, symptoms, and critical role of neurosurgery in its treatment RBA

Causes and Types of Brain Cysts

Brain cysts can develop from a variety of underlying reasons which are categorised under various types, such as:

  1. Arachnoid cysts: They occur between the arachnoid membrane, one of the protective layers covering the brain, and the surface of the brain. They are frequently congenital and may not appear until later in life.
  2. Colloid Cysts: Colloid cysts are often seen in the brain's third ventricle, obstructing the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. This obstruction can cause hydrocephalus, which causes headaches and vision issues.
  3. Epidermoid and dermoid cysts: These uncommon cysts form from the skin cell remnants and can be seen in diverse sites throughout the brain. They include a range of components, including skin cells, hair, and oil, and if they press against neighboring brain tissue, they may cause symptoms.
  4. Pineal Cysts: Pineal cysts are small structures deep within the brain that are located near the pineal gland. While most pineal cysts are harmless, if they expand in size, they can cause headaches and vision issues.

Symptoms & Diagnosis 

Brain cyst symptoms vary according to their size, location, and the pressure they impose on surrounding brain tissue. Some typical symptoms include:

  • Severe headaches are constant and are generally worse in the morning.
  • Increased intracranial pressure can cause nausea and vomiting.
  • Blurred vision, double vision, or other visual disturbances which lead to vision problems.
  • Difficulties in walking or completing daily duties due to issues with balance and coordination.
  • Memory issues, confusion, or behavioural abnormalities are examples of cognitive changes.

Brain cysts are often diagnosed using a combination of imaging procedures, such as MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or CT (Computed Tomography), as well as a complete medical evaluation. These tests aid in determining the size, location, and potential impact on the brain function of the cyst.

Neurosurgery: A Vital Intervention

Neurosurgery becomes an important therapeutic option when brain cysts generate severe symptoms or pose a health risk. The following are the primary objectives of neurosurgery for brain cysts:

  1. Cyst Removal: If the cyst is accessible and causing substantial problems, neurosurgeons may choose to remove it completely. This surgery may reduce symptoms and prevent problems that arise afterwards.
  2. Cyst Drainage: Surgeons may choose cyst drainage in some cases, notably when colloid cysts restrict cerebrospinal fluid flow. This entails making a small hole in the cyst to allow fluid to flow and relieve pressure.
  3. Endoscopic Techniques: Advances in neurosurgery techniques have resulted in less invasive endoscopic operations. Certain cysts can be accessed and treated by neurosurgeons with small incisions, reducing surgical risks and recovery time.
  4. Monitoring and Follow-Up: Neurosurgeons may choose to monitor tiny, asymptomatic cysts and start conservative therapy measures. Regular check-ups and screening ensure the cyst does not expand or produce symptoms over time.

Brain cysts are a difficult and often confusing disease, but they can be effectively controlled or cured using advanced medical technology and the expertise of neurosurgical teams. Early detection and treatments are critical in improving the quality of life for people affected with brain cysts. As we continue to understand the mysteries of the brain, neurosurgery plays an important role in offering hope and therapy to those suffering from these challenging conditions.

-Dr. Parth Jani, Consultant Neurosurgeon, HCG Hospitals, Ahmedabad

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