Suprascapular intraneural ganglia and glenohumeral joint connections

Robert J Spinner, Kimberly K Amrami, Michel Kliot, Shawn P Johnston, Joaquim Casañas
Journal of Neurosurgery 2006, 104 (4): 551-7

OBJECT: Unlike the more commonly noted paralabral cysts (extraneural ganglia), which are well known to result in suprascapular nerve compression, only four cases of suprascapular intraneural ganglia have been reported. Because of their rarity, the pathogenesis of suprascapular intraneural ganglia has been poorly understood and a pathoanatomical explanation has not been provided. In view of the growing literature demonstrating strong associations between paralabral cysts and labral (capsular) pathology, joint connections, and joint communications, the authors retrospectively reviewed the magnetic resonance (MR) imaging studies and postoperative results in the two featured patients to test a hypothesis that suprascapular intraneural ganglia would have analogous findings.

METHODS: Two patients who presented with suprascapular neuropathy were found to have intraneural ganglia. Connections to the glenohumeral joint could be established in both patients through posterior labrocapsular complex tears. In neither patient was the joint connection identified preoperatively or intraoperatively, and cyst decompression was performed by itself without attention to the labral tear. The suprascapular intraneural ganglia extended from the glenohumeral joint as far proximally as the level of the nerves' origin from the upper trunk in the supraclavicular fossa. Although both patients experienced symptomatic improvement after surgery, neurological recovery was incomplete. In both cases, postoperative MR images revealed cyst persistence. In addition, previously unrecognized superior labral anteroposterior (SLAP) Type II lesions (tears of the superior labrum extending anteroposterior and involving the biceps anchor at the labrum without actual extension into the tendon) were visualized. In one patient with a persistent cyst, an MR arthrogram was obtained and demonstrated a communication between the joint and the cyst.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings in these two patients support the synovial theory for intraneural ganglia. Based on their experience with intraneural ganglia at other sites, the authors believe that suprascapular intraneural ganglia arise from the glenohumeral joint, egress through a superior (posterior) labral tear, and dissect within the epineurium along an articular branch into the main nerve, following the path of least resistance. Furthermore, these two cases of intraneural ganglia with SLAP lesions are directly analogous to the many cases of paralabral cysts associated with these types of labral tears. By better understanding the origin of this unusual type of ganglia and drawing analogies to the more common extraneural cysts, surgical strategies can be formulated to address the underlying pathoanatomy, improve operative outcomes, and prevent recurrences.

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