PTEN hamartoma of soft tissue: a distinctive lesion in PTEN syndromes

Am J Surg Pathol. 2012 May;36(5):671-87. doi: 10.1097/PAS.0b013e31824dd86c.


PTEN hamartoma tumor syndrome (PHTS) presents in a spectrum that encompasses the eponymous disorders Cowden and Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba. Herein, we delineate the distinctive histopathology of a predominantly intramuscular lesion in PHTS, often called "arteriovenous malformation," because of certain imaging and histopathologic features. Cases were identified by review of lesions resected from patients with PHTS registered at our Vascular Anomalies Center and of unusual intramuscular vascular anomalies in our pathology database from 1985 to 2008. Thirty-four patients with this lesion were identified: 20 had a clinical diagnosis of, or were suspected to have, PHTS (genetically confirmed in 16). In 4 patients without clinical manifestations of PHTS, 2 had PTEN mutations, 1 did not, and in 1 the mutation was intronic. In the remaining 10, there was insufficient clinical information to fully assess whether they had manifestations of PHTS. Lesions manifested by 15 years of age, normally with pain and swelling, and were most often located in the lower extremity. The major mass was usually intramuscular, but often there were fascial and subcutaneous components and not infrequently a cutaneous vascular stain. Magnetic resonance imaging generally showed an infiltrative soft tissue lesion involving the muscle, fascia, and subcutis with frequently enlarged, serpiginous vessels, small arteriovenous fistulae with disproportionately dilated draining veins, and a prominent adipocytic component. Some lesions involved contiguous muscles, and 20% were multifocal. Resected specimens ranged in size from 1.2 to 25 cm; in 1 patient, amputation was necessary. Histopathologically, these unencapsulated masses, often with a nodular appearance at scanning magnification, consisted of: (1) a variable admixture of mature adipocytic and dense and/or myxoid fibrous tissues (50% to 90% of surface area); (2) a vascular component (10% to 50% of surface area) with: (a) clusters of venous channels, some with excessively and irregularly muscularized complex walls and lumens, and others with thin walls resembling pulmonary alveoli, (b) tortuous, thick-walled arteries with concentric muscular hyperplasia and relatively small lumens, (c) numerous small vessels (arteries, veins, and indeterminate channels), and (d) occasional arteriovenous communications; (3) lymphoid follicles (50%); (4) foci of bone (20%); and (5) hypertrophic nerves with "onion bulb" proliferation of periaxonal spindled cells (9%). We designate this disorganized overgrowth of essentially mesenchymal elements as PTEN hamartoma of soft tissue. It differs from other vascular and connective tissue lesions that occur in patients with PHTS. PTEN hamartoma of soft tissue is histopathologically distinctive, and its identification should prompt a thorough investigation for PHTS.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arteriovenous Malformations / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Genetic Markers
  • Hamartoma Syndrome, Multiple / diagnosis
  • Hamartoma Syndrome, Multiple / genetics
  • Hamartoma Syndrome, Multiple / pathology*
  • Hamartoma Syndrome, Multiple / surgery
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / genetics
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / genetics
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / surgery
  • Young Adult


  • Genetic Markers
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase
  • PTEN protein, human