International Orthopaedics

, Volume 43, Issue 7, pp 1727–1734 | Cite as

An evidence-based etiology study of synovial cyst of knee cruciate ligament: a real or pseudo-cyst

  • Jun XiaoEmail author
  • Yong Hu
  • Kai-Ying Tang
  • Tahsin Tarik Torsha
  • Yu Xu
  • Zhi-Han Li
  • Xiang-Zhao Li
  • Zhan-jun Shi
Original Paper



Synovial cyst of knee cruciate ligament (SCKCL) is a rare condition but can cause severe knee pain. The understanding of its etiology is relatively poor. This current study aimed to elucidate the pathogenesis of SCKCL based on a series of histo- and cytopathological examination.


Ten SCKCL patients who underwent arthroscopy were enrolled, among five patients claimed past knee injury. Hematoxylin & eosin staining was conducted to the cyst wall tissue sections and Papanicolaou staining to the cyst fluid smear. Prussian blue staining was employed to both the wall section and fluid smear. Immumohistochemical staining for mesothelial cells (MC), epithelial cells (CK), vascular endothelial cells (CD31), monocytes (CD68), and hematogenous stem cells (CD117) were taken to elucidate the possible involvement of various cell types in the development of SCKCL.


No erythrocyte was discovered in the fluid; however, Prussian blue stained hemosiderin particles were found in the cyst wall and fluid, suggesting past hemorrhage in all patients. Abundant lymphocytes and plasmocytes were observed in the cyst wall and fluid. In addition, the cyst lining was infiltrated with abundant CD68(+) monocytes while only few MC(+) mesothelial cells were sporadically observed in four samples. The cyst submucosa was also diffused with abundant CD68(+) monocytes and proliferated capillaries stained with CD31. CD117-positve hematogenous stem cells were sporadically observed in eight specimens.


Our findings provided evidence that SCKCL is not a mature synovial cyst but rather an inflammatory pseudo-cyst. It may have resulted from past minor hemorrhage and intra-ligament chronic inflammation.


Immumohistochemical staining Knee cruciate ligament Synovial cyst 



The authors would thank Dr. Yan-Qing Ding and Dr. Yong-Jian Deng from the pathological department for their generous help and advice on the pathological results.


This study was funded by NNSFC (National Natural Science Foundation of China (CN)) (grant number 81101389).

Compliance with ethical standards

The study was carried out upon the approval of the Ethics Committee of Nanfang hospital. For this type of study, formal consent is not required.

Conflict of interest

Jun Xiao receives a grant (81101389) from NNSFC (National Natural Science Foundation of China (CN)) to support the current research. For the rest of the co-authors, they declared that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© SICOT aisbl 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Nanfang HospitalSouthern Medical UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryThe second affiliated hospital of ChongQing Medical UniversityChongqingChina
  3. 3.Department of Pathology, Nanfang HospitalSouthern Medical UniversityGuangzhouChina

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