Mega cisterna magna

Mega cisterna magna refers to a normal variant characterized by a truly focal enlargement of the CSF-filled subarachnoid space in the inferior and posterior portions of the posterior cranial fossa. It is an incidental finding on neuroimaging, and no imaging follow up is necessary. 

A mega cisterna magna is thought to occur in ~1% of all brains imaged postnatally. It constitutes 54% of all cystic posterior fossa malformations 4.

Especially if noted antenatally, a mega cisterna magna has been associated with:

However, when a mega cisterna magna occurs as an isolated finding with normal ventricles, the prognosis is good.

There are no specific symptoms related to this condition. 

Some authors have proposed that mega cisterna magna is a result of a delayed Blake pouch fenestration; when fenestration does not occur, it results in a Blake pouch cyst 6

On antenatal ultrasound, mega cisterna magna refers to an enlarged retrocerebellar CSF space:

  • usually >10 mm (some consider up to 12 mm within normal limits)
  • septa may be seen within a mega cisterna magna, which are thought to be Blake pouch vestigial remnants 3
  • the vermis should be closely evaluated to exclude Dandy-Walker continuum abnormalities

Typically seen as prominent retrocerebellar cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) appearing space with a normal vermis, normal 4th ventricle, and normal cerebellar hemispheres. An enlarged cisterna magna usually measures >10 mm on midsagittal images. An enlarged posterior fossa can sometimes be present 6

The term was coined by the Belgian neurosurgeon Richard Gonsette (1929-2014) 8 in 1962, in patients with cerebellar atrophy 7

Mega cisterna magna needs to be distinguished from other causes of an enlarged retrocerebellar CSF space:

Anatomy: Brain

Anatomy: Brain

Article information

rID: 4585
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Mega cisterna magna
  • Mega-cisterna magna
  • Megacisterna magna
  • Enlarged cisterna magna
  • Retrocerebellar arachnoid pouch

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1: T2
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  • Case 2: T2
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  • Case 3: on antenatal ultrasound
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  • Case 4
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  • Case 5
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  • Case 6
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  • Case 7
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