Objective: Von Hippel-Lindau disease is a multisystem disorder predisposing to renal cysts and cancer. The growth and development of these renal lesions have not been documented previously. We reviewed serial CT scans to determine the rates and patterns of growth of renal lesions associated with von Hippel-Lindau disease.
Subjects and methods: Twenty-eight patients with von Hippel-Lindau disease and renal involvement, including the spectrum from simple cysts to solid masses, had follow-up examinations for at least 1 year (mean, 2.4 years; range, 1-12 years) with serial contrast-enhanced abdominal CT. Renal lesions were measured and characterized. Surgical correlation was available in 12 patients.
Results: Two hundred twenty-eight lesions (eight lesions per patient) were detected. On the basis of their CT appearance, 168 lesions (74%) were classified as cysts, 18 (8%) as cysts with solid components, and 42 (18%) as solid masses. Among 12 patients with pathologic confirmation, the solid components of cystic lesions and solid lesions almost always contained renal carcinoma. The majority of cysts remained the same size (71%) or enlarged (20%); 9% became smaller or entirely involuted during the follow-up period. Although it is generally presumed that renal cysts are precursors to cancers, the transformation of a simple cyst to a solid lesion was observed in only two patients. Among the 42 solid lesions, all but two enlarged with time, with a mean doubling time of 10 months.
Conclusion: The renal lesions associated with von Hippel-Lindau disease exhibited wide differences in growth. The majority of renal cysts grew slowly but some involuted. Transition to solid renal cancer was rare among cysts. Complex cystic and solid lesions contained neoplastic tissue that uniformly enlarged. These data may be used to help predict the progression of renal lesions in von Hippel-Lindau disease.