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Frontal horn thin walled cysts in preterm neonates are benign


BACKGROUND Screening cranial ultrasound led to the discovery of isolated frontal horn cysts quite distinct from periventricular leucomalacia cysts.

AIM To clarify their significance, incidence, characteristics, causal factors or aetiology, and effect on long term outcome.

DESIGN A retrospective observational study of all first cranial ultrasound scans (total of 2914) performed during the period 1984–1994 inclusive found 21 neonates with smooth thin walled frontal horn cysts: 18 of 2629 scanned were of birth weight < 1500 g or gestation < 33 weeks, and three of 285 were > 33 weeks gestation. Sequential ultrasound, maternal records, and neonatal events were retrospectively assessed. In survivors, routine neurodevelopmental evaluations were obtained. Postmortem studies of one cyst were performed to determine the nature and origin of these lesions.

RESULTS Of the 21 subjects, 15 had isolated frontal horn cysts and six had additional ultrasound scan abnormalities, including four with subependymal haemorrhage. The sonographic features of frontal horn cysts were of distinctive morphology (elliptical, smooth, thin walled, ranging in size from 3 to 20 mm) and position (adjacent to the tip of the anterior horns). The cysts enlarged and then regressed by a median corrected age of 2 months. Subjects of < 33 weeks gestation (n = 18) had a median birth weight of 1465 g (range 720–1990) and median gestation of 30 weeks (range 24–32). There was no consistent perinatal course. The neurodevelopmental outcome in 10 of the 11 survivors with isolated frontal horn cysts was normal. Five subjects died from causes unrelated to brain pathology in the neonatal period, and one subject died after infancy. Histological examination of a cyst at autopsy in one additional subject subsequent to the period of study confirmed the cyst to be lined by neuroblasts and ependymal cells.

CONCLUSIONS The incidence of frontal horn cysts in this low birthweight population was 7 per 1000 (0.7%) subjects scanned. They are present in the first week of life, enlarge, and resolve spontaneously. Survivors with isolated frontal horn cysts appear to have normal neurodevelopmental outcome. The prognosis of these distinct frontal horn cysts therefore appears to be benign.

  • frontal horn cysts
  • preterm
  • cranial
  • ultrasound
  • brain

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