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UCLA Neurosurgery


Rathke's Cleft Cyst

General Information

  • Rathke's pouch is a normal component of development that eventually forms the anterior lobe, pars intermedia and pars tuberalis of the pituitary gland.
    • This pouch normally closes early in fetal development, but a remnant often persists as a cleft that lies within the pituitary gland.
    • Occasionally, this remnant gives rise to a large cyst called the Rathke's cleft cyst (RCC).
  • Symptomatic RCCs are relatively uncommon lesions, accounting for less than 1 percent of all primary masses within the brain.
  • RCCs can be seen at any age, although most are identified in adults.


  • RCCs are usually asymptomatic and are found incidentally during autopsy or by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • RCCs also may cause visual disturbances, symptoms of pituitary dysfunction and headaches.


  • RCCs are diagnosed with MRI or computed tomography (CT) scans of the brain or pituitary.
  • Other possible diagnoses considered when a cyst is seen in the area of the pituitary include arachnoid cyst, cystic pituitary adenoma or craniopharyngioma.


  • Symptomatic RCCs warrant transsphenoidal surgical drainage and/or surgical removal.


  • The recurrence rate following surgical treatment is extremely low.

The Neuro-ICU cares for patients with all types of neurosurgical and neurological injuries, including stroke, brain hemorrhage, trauma and tumors. We work in close cooperation with your surgeon or medical doctor with whom you have had initial contact. Together with the surgeon or medical doctor, the Neuro-ICU attending physician and team members direct your family member's care while in the ICU. The Neuro-ICU team consists of the bedside nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians in specialty training (Fellows) and attending physicians. UCLA Neuro ICU Family Guide 

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