Pigmented lesions of the central nervous system: radiologic-pathologic correlation

Radiographics. 2009 Sep-Oct;29(5):1503-24. doi: 10.1148/rg.295095109.


Pigmented lesions of the central nervous system (CNS) are a diverse group of entities that run the gamut from benign to malignant. These lesions may be well circumscribed or diffuse, and their imaging appearances are influenced by the degree of melanin content as well as the presence or absence of hemorrhage. Pigmented lesions include primary melanocytic lesions of the CNS and metastatic melanoma, as well as other CNS neoplasms that may undergo melanization, including schwannoma, medulloblastoma, and some gliomas. Primary melanocytic lesions of the CNS arise from melanocytes located within the leptomeninges, and this group includes diffuse melanocytosis and meningeal melanomatosis (seen in neurocutaneous melanosis), melanocytoma, and malignant melanoma. Primary melanin-containing lesions of the CNS must be differentiated from metastatic melanoma because these lesions require different patient workup and therapy. Absence of a known primary malignant melanoma helps in the differential diagnosis, but an occult primary lesion outside the CNS must be sought and excluded. Pigmented lesions of the CNS are uncommon, and knowledge of their imaging characteristics and pathologic features is essential for their identification.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pigmentation Disorders / diagnosis*