Giant thoracic schwannoma presenting with abrupt onset of abdominal pain: a case report

J Med Case Rep. 2009 Oct 30;3:88. doi: 10.1186/1752-1947-3-88.

Abstract

Introduction: Giant intradural extramedullary schwannomas of the thoracic spine are not common. Schwannomas, that is, tumors derived from neoplastic Schwann cells, and neurofibromas represent the most common intradural extramedullary spinal lesions. We report the case of a patient with a giant thoracic schwannoma presenting unusually with acute abdominal pain and with delayed neurological impairment.

Case presentation: A 26-year-old Hispanic man with no previous medical problems presented with acute periumbilical pain. After extensive work-up including an exploratory laparotomy for appendectomy, magnetic resonance imaging scans of the lumbar and thoracic spine revealed a giant intradural extramedullary thoracic schwannoma within the spinal canal posterior to the T9, T10, and T11 vertebral bodies. Magnetic resonance imaging signal prolongation was noted in the spinal cord both rostral and caudal to the schwannoma. The patient underwent an urgent laminectomy from T8 to L1. After sacrificing the T10 root, the tumor was removed en bloc. Postoperatively, the patient improved significantly gaining antigravity strength in both lower extremities.

Conclusion: The T10 dermatome is represented by the umbilical region. This referred pain may represent a mechanism by which a giant thoracic schwannoma may present as acute abdominal pain. Acute, intense abdominal pain with delayed neurologic deficit is a rare presentation of a thoracic schwannoma but should be considered as a possible cause of abdominal pain presenting without clear etiology. Although these lesions may be delayed in their diagnosis, early diagnosis and treatment may lead to an improved clinical outcome.