Adventitial Cystic Disease Symptoms, Tests & Treatment | MedStar Health

Adventitial cystic disease is a rare type of peripheral vascular disease in which a fluid-filled sac called a cyst forms next to the artery and blocks blood flow.

This cyst usually forms next to the popliteal artery, which is located behind the knee in the back of the leg and brings blood to the knee, calf muscles, and foot. In very rare cases, this disease can affect arteries in the:

  • Forearm
  • Pelvis
  • Thigh

People who have adventitial cystic disease don’t get enough blood flow to the affected limb. This is called ischemia.

Although this is a rare condition, our Vascular and Endovascular Program is well-equipped to treat it. Our doctors are recognized leaders in the treatment of the most complex vascular disorders.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of adventitial cystic disease are leg pain or cramping during exercise especially in the calves. This is called intermittent claudication. The pain is caused by the cyst blocking blood flow to the leg. A heavy feeling in the leg and pain behind the knee also are possible symptoms.

These symptoms are similar to those of a condition called popliteal artery entrapment syndrome. Your doctor likely will test you for both conditions.

We don’t know what causes adventitial cystic disease. However, we do know that the vast majority of people with this disease are young to middle-aged men.


Diagnosis starts with a physical exam of the foot and knee. The doctor will measure the pulse in your foot and behind the knee during rest and exercise. Our specialists may recommend one or more diagnostic and imaging procedures.

Cardiac catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and treat a variety of heart and vascular conditions by guiding thin, flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels to problem areas.

Chest X-ray

Chest X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart, and chest wall.


An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.

Stress tests

Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms, and chemically induced stress tests.


In some cases, we can aspirate, or drain, the cyst without surgery, but this may allow the cyst to come back over time.


Angioplasty improves blood flow through the arteries by clearing plaque buildup.


Stenting uses a mesh tube to open narrow blood vessels and improve blood flow.

Vascular Disease Treatments

Vascular disease treatments address conditions that affect the blood vessels, which can cause blood flow to become decreased, interrupted, or slowed.

Venous Stenting

Venous stenting uses a wire mesh tube placed within a vein to widen it and improve blood flow.

Additional information

Vascular and Endovascular Program

Partner with a recognized leader in offering care ranging from straightforward vascular disease to the most complex vascular disorders.

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