Imaging tumours of the brachial plexus

Skeletal Radiol. 2003 Jul;32(7):375-87. doi: 10.1007/s00256-003-0618-0. Epub 2003 Mar 20.


Tumours of the brachial plexus are rare lesions and may be classified as benign or malignant. Within each of these groups, they are further subdivided into those that are neurogenic in origin (schwannoma, neurofibroma and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumour) and those that are non-neurogenic. Careful pre-operative diagnosis and staging is essential to the successful management of these lesions. Benign neurogenic tumours are well characterized with pre-operative MRI, appearing as well-defined, oval soft-tissue masses, which are typically isointense on T1-weighted images and show the "target sign" on T2-weighted images. Differentiation between schwannoma and neurofibroma can often be made by assessing the relationship of the lesion to the nerve of origin. Many benign non-neurogenic tumours, such as lipoma and fibromatosis, are also well characterized by MRI. This article reviews the imaging features of brachial plexus tumours, with particular emphasis on the value of MRI in differential diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brachial Plexus* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neurilemmoma / diagnosis
  • Neurofibroma / diagnosis
  • Peripheral Nervous System Neoplasms / diagnosis*