Anterior cruciate ligament ganglion cyst

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) ganglion cysts, commonly referred to simply as ACL cysts, along with ganglion cysts arising from the alar folds that cover the infrapatellar fat pad, make up the vast majority of intra-articular ganglion cysts of the knee.

Anterior cruciate ligament ganglion cysts are uncommon, with prevalence reported to be between 0.3-1.3% of knee MRIs, and are usually incidental findings.

Knee pain, being the most common presenting complaint, is usually attributable to other pathology.

Anterior cruciate ligament ganglion cysts are histologically identical to the ganglion cysts seen elsewhere, most commonly around the wrist. The pathogenesis remains controversial, with two theories being favoured:

  • sequelae of ACL mucoid degeneration
  • herniation of synovial tissue through a defect in the joint capsule or tendon sheath

MRI is better at detecting these lesions than standard anterior portal approach arthroscopy as the surface of the ligament is often intact. In fact, the ligament may appear entirely normal. A posterior approach will allow the arthroscopist to detect changes by probing the ligament and will allow potential aspiration of the cysts.

Typically the cysts appear as regions of high T2 signal, often multiloculated, centred on the distal ACL. Often there is some irregularity to the bone subjacent to the tibial attachment.

Differential diagnosis of cysts around the knee joint include:

Knee pathology

The knee is a complex synovial joint that can be affected by a range of pathologies:

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Article information

rID: 3617
Tag: knee
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • ACL ganglion cysts
  • ACL cysts
  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) ganglion cyst
  • Cysts of the anterior cruciate ligament

Cases and figures

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    Sagittal Fat Sat PD
    Case 1
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    Case 2
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    Case 3
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    High-res T2
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    Case 5
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    Case 6
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