What are Colloid Cysts?

A colloid cyst is a rare brain tumor that which occurs only in about 3 people per million of the population. These cystic fluid collections are found in the fluid-filled brain regions called ventricles, and they are always benign (non-cancerous). However, just because colloid cysts are benign doesn’t mean they are harmless.

Colloid cysts have a thin lining surrounded by a thick fluid-filled center. As the colloid cysts grow in the brain, they can block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which eventually leads to excess brain CSF, a condition called hydrocephalus. As the problem worsens, benign growths can cause numerous problems, from headaches to memory difficulties or even coma. Colloid cysts can also compress the structures of the brain responsible for processing memory signals.

The board-certified neurologists and neurosurgeons at RWJBarnabas Health facilities treat colloid cysts and other brain and spinal disorders.

What Causes Colloid Cysts?

There is no known cause for these benign brain tumors, but researchers theorize that they develop as a fetus grows in the womb as the central nervous system develops. There is no known hereditary or environmental cause, and no screening available.

Symptoms of Colloid Cysts

Colloid cysts often produce no symptoms until they grow quite large, and symptoms vary depending on the part of the brain where the cyst is found. Symptoms manifest differently from one person to the next, but can include:

  • Behavioral changes
  • Headaches
  • Memory problems
  • Brief losses of consciousness that can lead to coma

Once a colloid cyst causes CSF buildup called hydrocephalus, additional symptoms may arise, including:

  • Confusion
  • Double vision
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty walking

In rare cases, colloid cysts can cause sudden death.

How are Colloid Cysts Diagnosed?

Often, a colloid cyst is only discovered when an imaging scan is performed for another reason, unless a person has symptoms that lead a physician to believe a brain tumor may be present. Once a brain tumor is confirmed, they will be referred to a neurosurgeon who will take a medical history and conduct follow-up tests. These tests may include neurologic exams and further imaging tests when observation is necessary over time to check if the cyst is growing. Imaging tests that can check for brain tumors include computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans that may include a contrast dye to show more image details.

Colloid Cyst Treatment

Without proper treatment, a colloid cyst can be life-threatening. Surgical treatment is necessary to removal the cyst; yet surgery may be difficult to perform because colloid cysts are usually found deep inside the brain. For this reason, a neurosurgeon may use an endoscopic approach that uses tiny surgical instruments sent through a thin tube to access the cyst.

If the colloid cyst has caused hydrocephalus, a shunt would be inserted in the brain to drain the excess CSF and relieve pressure.

Contact RWJBarnabas Health for Treatment or a Second Opinion

RWJBarnabas Health in New Jersey is your partner for a healthier tomorrow. For more information, call Request an appointment with one of our neurosurgeons today.

If you have been diagnosed with a colloid cyst and would like a second opinion about your diagnosis, learn about our convenient, affordable and fast virtual Second Opinion Program — you can consult globally renowned surgical specialists without leaving your home.

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