Tarlov Cysts

Timothy C. Hain, MD• Page last modified: March 5, 2021

Overview of Tarlov Cysts

Tarlov cysts, also called "perineural cysts, "dural ectasia", or "meningeal diverticulae", are dilations of the sheath of the nerve close to where it exits the spinal column. They are filled with spinal fluid but they also contain neural elements -- the nerve and dorsal root ganglion.

Roughly 10% of the population are reported to have Tarlov cysts, mainly in women.

They are more common in persons with Marfan's syndrome (Paterakis et al, 2019), and possibly also in some variants of Ehler's Danlos. They are reported to be a cause of CSF leak (Planche et al 2015; Schievink et al, 2016).


Tarlov cysts lumbar area

Tarlov cysts are usually reported as "incidental" findings on T2 MRI of the spine. An example of a large one on the right, and a small one on the left is shown above, on a lumbar MRI.


Tarlov cysts are generally ignored. Occasionally they are aspirated, and occasionally they are filled with fibrin glue (Schievink, 2016).