What are colloid cysts?

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Colloidal cysts are benign tumors in the brain that can be fatal if left untreated. Symptoms include headache, drowsiness, nausea, weakness, memory impairment, and personality changes. Surgery is the recommended treatment, with endoscopic neurosurgery being less invasive and resulting in minimal scarring. Recurrence rates are low after full extraction.

Colloidal cysts are benign tumors that form in the brain. Cysts are made up of a gelatinous substance held together by connective tissues covered in cells. The exact cause for the formation of the cysts is not known. The primary symptoms associated with cysts are headache, increased drowsiness, nausea, weakness, memory impairment, and personality changes. Surgery is the recommended form of treatment in most cases.

Although the makeup of colloid cysts is benign, the cysts are still problematic. If left untreated, the condition can be fatal. As the cyst grows in size, it can block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid into the brain. This blockage will then cause pressure to build up in the rest of the brain. As the pressure builds, the head enlarges and the brain compresses.

As a result of this increased cranial pressure, the patient often experiences side effects. Depending on the exact location and size of the colloid cysts, the patient may experience any or all of the following symptoms: headache, increased drowsiness, nausea, weakness, memory impairment, and personality changes, just to name a few. Doctors can diagnose whether a patient has colloid cysts through a combination of the patient’s reported symptoms and computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Surgery is considered a cure for colloid cysts and failure to remove the blockages can result in sudden death of the patient.

In the past, colloidal cyst extraction was a risky procedure involving a craniotomy. During a craniotomy, the surgeon removes a portion of the skull to get to the cysts. With the advent of endoscopic neurosurgery, surgical methods have changed dramatically. During an endoscopic neurosurgery, the surgeon makes a small incision in the hairline and then inserts an endoscope. Suction catheters are then used to exhaust the gel-like substance in the cyst, the outer wall of the cyst is removed, and an electric current is introduced to the region to destroy any residue.

The surgical procedure to remove colloid cysts with an endoscope typically takes less than an hour to perform. Also, because the surgery is not considered invasive, patients who experience no complications can usually go home within a couple of days. Permanent scarring is minimal and consists of a short incision covered by the patient’s hairline. Colloidal cysts are rare and make up less than 1% of tumors that form in the brain. Also, when the cysts have been fully extracted, recurrence rates are low.

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