Ultrasound classification of solitary renal cysts in children

B. Karmazyn, A. Tawadros, L. R. Delaney, M. B. Marine, M. P. Cain, R. C. Rink, S. G. Jennings, M. Kaefer

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Introduction Solitary renal cysts are typically incidentally found in children who have undergone renal ultrasound (US). The main concern is a cystic tumor. There is no US-based grading system for children to guide management. Objective To evaluate a US-based, modified Bosniak grading system in order to differentiate between simple (grade I or II) and complex (grade II or IV) renal cysts and guide management in children. Study design This was a retrospective (2003-2011) study of 212 children (114 females), age range one day to 17 years (mean 8.4 years), with solitary renal cysts diagnosed by US. Two radiologists, who were independent and blinded to clinical information, graded the cysts using the modified Bosniak classification system. In children with more than one year of follow-up US, the change (>10%) in cyst diameter was evaluated. Inter-observer variability (Kappa) was calculated. Results Radiologists one and two saw simple renal cysts in 96.2-96.6% (204-205/212) of the children. Ten children had complex renal cysts, as rated by either of the radiologists. There was good inter-observer agreement (kappa = 0.65) for simple versus complex cysts. In 20.2% (18/89) of the children, the cysts increased in size. A definitive diagnosis was obtained in 8.5% (18/212) of the children. A cystic tumor (multilocular cystic nephroma) was found in one child (Figure) with a complex cyst (graded III by both radiologists). Discussion The use of a modified Bosniak classification system to grade renal cysts was found to have good inter-observer variability (kappa = 0.65) in differentiating between simple and complex renal cysts. Using this classification, few (<4%) renal cysts were classified as complex. Cystic tumors are rare and the only cystic tumor (multilocular cystic nephroma) was classified as complex renal cysts by the two radiologists. Growth of simple, solitary renal cyst is common (20.2%) and, therefore, if not associated with other imaging findings, is not an indication for a cystic tumor. There were limitations inherent in the retrospective nature of the study and because only one child had a cystic tumor. Conclusion The modified Bosniak classification system demonstrated good inter-observer agreement, and identified the single tumor as a complex cyst. The vast majority of solitary renal cysts in children are simple and if asymptomatic, they require no other imaging evaluation. Complex renal cysts are uncommon and should be evaluated with a pre-intravenous and postintravenous contrast CT scan to exclude a tumor. Longitudinal color doppler US of a complex (grade III by both radiologists) left renal cyst in a 7.2 year-old boy. The child presented with gross hematuria. Ultrasound shows a septated cystic mass with vascularity of the septations (arrowheads) and cyst wall (arrow). Radical nephrectomy was performed with pathologic diagnosis of multiloculated cystic nephroma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149.e1-149.e6
JournalJournal of Pediatric Urology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • Children
  • Complex cysts
  • Simple cysts
  • Solitary renal cysts
  • Ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Urology

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    Karmazyn, B., Tawadros, A., Delaney, L. R., Marine, M. B., Cain, M. P., Rink, R. C., Jennings, S. G., & Kaefer, M. (2015). Ultrasound classification of solitary renal cysts in children. Journal of Pediatric Urology, 11(3), 149.e1-149.e6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpurol.2015.03.001