Pediatric Radiology

, Volume 49, Issue 13, pp 1781–1787 | Cite as

Prevalence of pituitary cysts in children using modern magnetic resonance imaging techniques

  • Eman S. MahdiEmail author
  • Ryan Logan Webb
  • Matthew T. Whitehead
Original Article



Pituitary pars intermedia/Rathke cleft cysts or cyst-like structures are commonly encountered in children undergoing brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), especially when examinations include thin-section, high-resolution sequences.


To determine the prevalence of pituitary cystic lesions in children at our institution using modern MRI technique, to assess for associated endocrinopathy and to address the need for follow-up.

Materials and methods

We retrospectively reviewed 232 consecutive 1.5- and 3-T brain MRIs in children ages 0–18 years (mean: 8.3±5.3 years). We evaluated 3-D volumetric T1 spoiled gradient echo (SPGR) and axial T2-weighted sequences. Pituitary glands were evaluated for the presence, size and signal characteristics of cysts. Cyst volumes were measured in three orthogonal planes. Endocrine abnormalities were documented from the medical record.


Pituitary cysts were present in 57.7% of children (n=134), with a mean linear measurement of 3.6±1.17 mm (range: 0.4 to 12.3 mm). The overwhelming majority of cysts were hyopointense on T1-W images (n=121, 90%) and isointense on T2-W images relative to the adenohypophysis (n=106, 79%). T1 hyperintense and T2 hypointense signals were present in a minority, 6.7% and 8%, respectively. Most cysts were occult on post-contrast T1-W images (n=24, 77%). Endocrine abnormalities were present in 2/134 (1.5%) of children with cysts (these were unrelated to the pituitary gland) versus 1/98 (1%) children without cysts (P=0.7).


More often than not, pituitary cysts/cyst-like structures can be found incidentally in children using modern MRI techniques. Follow-up is not typically required if there are no associated symptoms or excessive size.


Children Craniopharyngioma Magnetic resonance imaging Pars intermedia cyst Pituitary cyst Pituitary gland Rathke cleft cyst 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Diagnostic Imaging and RadiologyUniversity of Missouri Hospital/Women’s and Children’s HospitalColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Diagnostic Imaging and RadiologyStaten Island University HospitalStaten IslandUSA
  3. 3.Department of Diagnostic Imaging and RadiologyChildren’s National Medical CenterWashingtonUSA
  4. 4.George Washington University HospitalWashingtonUSA

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