Treatment methods for popliteal cysts have varied over the past several decades and have posed challenges to providers as recurrences were frequent. With greater understanding of relevant anatomy, both operative and nonoperative treatment methods have evolved to appropriately target relevant pathology and improve outcomes. The purposes of this review were to outline the evolution of treatment methods and to qualitatively summarize clinical outcomes.
We performed a systematic review on treatments for popliteal cysts to include publications from 1970 to 2019. Other inclusion criteria consisted of studies with ≥10 patients enrolled, studies with a patient age of ≥16 years, studies with an adequate description of the treatment technique, and studies with a Level of Evidence of IV or higher. The review was conducted according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, and literature quality was assessed using a modified Coleman methodology score.
Thirty studies met inclusion criteria in this review. Nine studies discussed nonoperative treatment, and 21 studies discussed operative treatment. Eight of the 9 nonoperative treatment studies utilized corticosteroid injections. The most recent studies have advocated for ultrasound-guided intracystic injection with possible cyst fenestration. Most operative studies utilized an arthroscopic approach to enlarge the communication with the joint space. However, alternative treatment techniques are still utilized.
The current literature on the treatment of popliteal cysts indicates that intracystic corticosteroid injection with cyst fenestration is an effective nonoperative treatment method. Arthroscopic surgical procedures with enlargement of the communication have been most widely studied, with positive results; however, further studies are needed to confirm superiority over other treatment methods.
Level of Evidence:
Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.