Adrenal cortical neoplasms in the pediatric population: a clinicopathologic and immunophenotypic analysis of 83 patients

Am J Surg Pathol. 2003 Jul;27(7):867-81. doi: 10.1097/00000478-200307000-00001.


Adrenal cortical neoplasms in pediatric patients (<20 years) are rare. The clinical manifestations and biologic behavior of these lesions can be quite distinct from their histologically similar counterparts in the adult population, making pathologic criteria for distinguishing benign from malignant tumors equivocal. We undertook a study of 83 adrenal cortical neoplasms to determine if adult clinical and histologic features can be applied to pediatric patients in an outcome-based analysis. Most of the patients (50 girls and 33 boys) presented with hormone-related symptoms present for a mean of 6.8 months. The tumors ranged in size from 2 to 20 cm (mean 8.8 cm). Histologic parameters examined included capsular and/or vascular invasion, extraadrenal soft tissue extension, growth pattern, cellularity, necrosis, cytoplasmic eosinophilia, nuclear pleomorphism, nuclear-to-cytoplasmic ratio, prominent nucleoli, mitotic figures, atypical mitotic figures, bands of fibrosis, and calcifications. Immunophenotypically, there was reactivity with inhibin, vimentin, CK5, and focally with p53 and Ki-67. All patients underwent adrenalectomy, and 20 patients received adjuvant therapy. All patients with tumors classified as adenomas (n = 9) were alive, without evidence of disease (mean 14.7 years), whereas 21 patients with carcinomas had died with disease (mean 2.4 years). Only 31% of histologically malignant tumors behaved in a clinically malignant fashion. Features associated with an increased probability of a malignant clinical behavior included tumor weight (>400 g), tumor size (>10.5 cm), vena cava invasion, capsular and/or vascular invasion, extension into periadrenal soft tissue, confluent necrosis, severe nuclear atypia, >15 mitotic figures/20 high power fields, and the presence of atypical mitotic figures. Vena cava invasion, necrosis, and increased mitotic activity (>15 mitotic figures/20 high power fields) independently suggest malignant clinical behavior in multivariate analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / metabolism
  • Adenoma / pathology*
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / therapy
  • Adrenalectomy
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Carcinoma / metabolism
  • Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Carcinoma / therapy
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Nucleus / pathology
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Male


  • Biomarkers, Tumor