Bone marrow histopathology in the diagnostic evaluation of splenic marginal-zone and splenic diffuse red pulp small B-cell lymphoma: a reliable substitute for spleen histopathology?

Am J Surg Pathol. 2012 Nov;36(11):1609-18. doi: 10.1097/PAS.0b013e318271243d.


Primary splenic small B-cell lymphomas mostly comprise the distinct entity of splenic marginal-zone lymphoma (SMZL) and the provisional category of splenic lymphoma/leukemia unclassifiable, mainly represented by the hairy cell leukemia variant and splenic diffuse red pulp small B-cell lymphoma (SDRL). Until recently, histopathologic examination of splenectomy specimens was considered mandatory for the diagnosis of SMZL. However, nowadays, mainly because of advances in chemoimmunotherapy, splenectomy is performed much less frequently. We evaluated the diagnostic efficacy of bone marrow biopsy (BMB) histopathology in the diagnostic approach toward SMZL and SDRL and tested whether it may serve as a substitute for spleen histopathology in the differential diagnosis between these 2 entities. To this end, we conducted a paired assessment of BMB and spleen diagnostic samples from 46 cases with a diagnosis of SMZL (n=32) or SDRL (n=14) based on spleen histopathology. We demonstrate that detailed immunohistopathologic BMB evaluation offers adequate evidence for the confirmation of these entities and their differential diagnosis from other small B-cell lymphoma histotypes. Notably, the immunophenotypical profile of SMZL and SDRL was identical in both BMB and spleen specimens for 21 evaluated markers. Paired assessment of BMB and spleen specimens did not identify discriminating patterns of BMB infiltration, cytology, and/or immunohistology between SMZL and SDRL. Accordingly, bone marrow histopathology contributes significantly in confirming the diagnosis of SMZL and SDRL. However, presently it is not possible to distinguish SMZL from SDRL on the basis of BMB evaluation alone; hence, histopathologic examination of the spleen remains the "gold standard" approach.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Bone Marrow Cells / metabolism
  • Bone Marrow Cells / pathology*
  • DNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukemic Infiltration / genetics
  • Leukemic Infiltration / metabolism
  • Leukemic Infiltration / pathology
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell, Marginal Zone / diagnosis*
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell, Marginal Zone / genetics
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell, Marginal Zone / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Spleen / metabolism
  • Spleen / pathology*
  • Spleen / surgery
  • Splenic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Splenic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Splenic Neoplasms / metabolism


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • DNA, Neoplasm