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A to Z: Cyst, Cerebral

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May also be called: Cerebral Cyst; Brain Cyst; Intracranial Cyst

A cerebral (suh-REE-brul) cyst is a sac filled with fluid and sometimes other materials that develops in or around the brain.

More to Know

Cerebral refers to something related to the brain, and a cyst is a sac that can be filled with fluid, blood, minerals, or tissue. Different kinds of cerebral cysts can develop in different parts of the brain:

  • Arachnoid (uh-RACK-noyd) cysts develop in one of the membranes that surround the brain.
  • Colloid cysts almost always develop in a part of the brain called the third ventricle.
  • Other cysts, such as dermoid cysts and epidermoid cysts, can develop elsewhere in the brain when hair, skin, or nail cells get trapped in the brain as a fetus develops.

Most cerebral cysts are congenital, meaning children are born with them. But sometimes they can develop in adults after head injuries, meningitis, tumors, or brain surgery.

Some children born with cerebral cysts have no symptoms; in other cases, it may take years for the first symptoms to appear. Symptoms can include headaches, nausea, vomiting, seizures, increased pressure on the brain, developmental delays, and behavioral changes. Some cerebral cysts can become life threatening if they are not treated.

Treatment for cerebral cysts depends on the size and location of the cyst. Small cysts that aren’t causing problems usually don’t require treatment. Larger cysts or cysts that doctors think may eventually cause problems usually are treated with surgery to remove the cyst or drain fluid from it.

Keep in Mind

Although they can sometimes be associated with brain tumors, cerebral cysts are usually noncancerous, so if they aren’t causing any symptoms, nothing needs to be done about them. When surgery is done to treat a cerebral cyst, the results are generally excellent and most people make a full recovery if treatment begins promptly.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.