Skip to main content

Popliteal cysts and associated disorders of the knee

Critical review with MR imaging


We have studied retrospectively the epidemiological features of popliteal cysts in adults and the incidence of associated intra-articular disorders in a series of 1001 patients undergoing magnetic resonance imaging who had been randomly referred to our institution. Images of popliteal cysts were seen in 4.7% of this group which is lower than in other studies with different imaging techniques. A communication with the joint was invariably found. The cysts were associated with one, or more, disorders detected by MRI in 94%. The commonest lesions were meniscal (83%), frequently involving the posterior horn of the medial meniscus, chondral (43%), and anterior cruciate ligament tears. Our data suggest that intra-articular disorders may play an important role in the pathogenesis of popliteal cysts in adults.


Nous avons examiné les caractéristiques épidémiologiques du kyste poplité chez l'adulte et la fréquence des pathologies intra-articulaires du genou associées à celui-ci dans une population de 1001 patients qui se sont adressés à notre hôpital pour exécuter une resonance magnétique nucléaire du genou. Les images qui montraient la présence d'un kyste poplité ont été réexaminées par 2 d'entre nous pour déterminer la présence d'autres pathologies intra-articulaires du genou. L'incidence du kyste poplité dans la population étudiée (4.7%) était moindre par rapport à ce qui a été décrit dans des études précédentes, où le diagnostique était posé par des techniques différentes. Nous avons toujour observé la présence d'une communication entre le kyste et la cavité articulaire. Nous avons constaté que le kyste poplité est associé à une autre pathologie intra-articulaire, mise en évidence par la resonance magnétique nucléaire, dans 94% des cas. Les pathologies plus fréquement associées sont: lésions méniscales (83%), intéressant généralement la corne postérieure du ménisque interne, lésions chondrales (43%), et rupture du ligament croisé antérieur (32%). Bien que la relation entre kyste et pathologie intra-articulaire du genou mérite d' être approfondi, nos données suggèrent, que la pathologie intra-articulaire puisse jouer un rôle fondamental dans la pathogenèse du kyste poplité de l'adulte.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Barronian AD, Zoltan JD, Bucon KA (1989) Magnetic Resonance imaging of the knee: correlation with arthroscopy. Arthroscopy 5: 187–191

    Google Scholar 

  2. Childress HM (1970) Popliteal cysts associated with undiagnosed posterior lesion of the medial meniscus. The significance of age in diagnosis and treatment. J Bone Joint Surg [Am] 52: 1487–1492

    Google Scholar 

  3. D'Erme M, Ventura M, Di Giacomo G, Pasquali Lasagni M (1992) Risonanza Magnetica e artroscopia del ginocchio. Radiol Med 84: 553–556

    Google Scholar 

  4. Fielding JR, Franklin PD, Kustan J (1991) Popliteal cysts: a reassessment using magnetic resonance imaging. Skeletal Radiol 20: 433–435

    Google Scholar 

  5. Gristina AG, Wilson PD (1964) Popliteal cysts in adults and children: review of 90 cases. Arch Surg 88: 357–363

    Google Scholar 

  6. Hayes CW, Sawyer RW, Conway WF (1990) Patellar cartilage lesions: in vitro detection and staging with MR imaging and pathologic correlation. Radiology 176: 479–483

    Google Scholar 

  7. Hermann G, Yeh H, Lehr-Janus C, Berson BL (1981) Diagnosis of popliteal cyst: double-contrast arthrography and sonography. AJR 137: 369–372

    Google Scholar 

  8. Lee KR, Tines SC, Price HI, De Smet AA, Neff JR (1983) The computed tomographic findings of popliteal cysts. Skeletal Radiol 10: 26–29

    Google Scholar 

  9. Lindgren PG (1978) Gastrocnemio-semimembranosus bursa and its relation to the knee joint. Acta Radiol Diagnosis 19: 609–622

    Google Scholar 

  10. Lindgren PG, Rauschning W (1979) Clinical and arthrographic studies on the valve mechanism in communicating popliteal cysts. Arch Orthop Traumat Surg 95: 245–250

    Google Scholar 

  11. Lindgren PG, Rauschning W (1980) Radiographic investigation of popliteal cysts. Acta Radiol Diagnosis 21: 657–662

    Google Scholar 

  12. Lindgren PG, Willen R (1977) Gastrocnemio-semimembranosus bursa and its relation to the knee joint. Acta Radiol Diagnosis 18: 497–512

    Google Scholar 

  13. Meire HB, Lindsay DJ, Swinson DR, Hamilton EBD (1974) Comparison of ultrasound and positive contrast arthrography in the diagnosis of popliteal calf swellings. Ann Rheum Dis 33: 221–224

    Google Scholar 

  14. Nicholas JA, Freiberger RH, Killoran PJ (1970) Double contrast arthrography of the knee. Its value in the management of two hundred and twenty-five knee derangements. J Bone Joint Surg [Am] 52: 203–220

    Google Scholar 

  15. Rauschning W (1980) Anatomy and function of the communication between knee joint and popliteal bursae. Ann Rheum Dis 39: 354–358

    Google Scholar 

  16. Reinhardt K (1972) Popliteazysten and popliteogene Unterschenkelzysten (Bakerzysten). Radiologie 12: 77–81

    Google Scholar 

  17. Schwimmer M, Edelstein G, Heiken JP, Gilula LA (1985) Synovial cysts of the knee: CT evaluation. Radiology 154: 175–177

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. Shahriaree H (1985) Chondromalacia. Contemp Orthop 11: 27–39

    Google Scholar 

  19. Sundaram M, McGurie MH, Fletcher J, Wolverson MK, Heiberg E, Shields JB (1986) Magnetic resonance imaging of lesions of synovial origin. Skeletal Radiol 15: 110–116

    Google Scholar 

  20. Wolfe RD, Colloff B (1972) Popliteal cysts: an arthrographic study and review of the literature. J Bone Joint Surg [Am] 54: 1057–1063

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Sansone, V., De Ponti, A., Paluello, G.M. et al. Popliteal cysts and associated disorders of the knee. International Orthopaedics 19, 275–279 (1995).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Public Health
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament
  • Imaging Technique
  • Cruciate Ligament