Benign lymphadenopathies

Mod Pathol. 2013 Jan:26 Suppl 1:S88-96. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2012.176.


Benign lymphadenopathy is a common biopsy finding, and may often be confused with malignant lymphoma. It may be separated into major morphologic patterns, each with its own differential diagnosis with certain types of lymphoma. Most cases of reactive follicular hyperplasia is easy to diagnosis, but some cases may be confused with follicular lymphoma, but key morphologic, immunohistochemical, and molecular findings may usually distinguish between the two, particularly assessment of bcl-2 staining. Molecular studies to demonstrate B-cell clonality, as well as the t(14;18), may also be of great use in difficult cases. IgG4-associated sclerosing disease is discussed, as one recently described example of a specific type of reactive follicular hyperplasia in which the etiology may be suggested based on pathologic studies. While overlapping with the other types of hyperplasia, a high index of suspicion as well as IgG and IgG4 immunostains will help raise the possibility of the diagnosis that can be confirmed by further clinical studies. Reactive paracortical/interfollicular hyperplasia is another pattern of reactive hyperplasia, which may easily be confused with Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, particularly T-cell lymphoma. Epstein-Barr virus-associated infectious mononucleosis is an example of reactive paracortical/interfollicular hyperplasia, which may often simulate a malignant lymphoma. Attention to clinical findings, as well as a combination of immunohistochemical stains and in situ hybridization studies for Epstein-Barr early RNA (EBER) will usually allow a definitive diagnosis. In addition, lymph nodes with extensive necrosis may simulate malignant lymphoma. Kikuchi necrotizing histiocytic lymphadenitis is an example of a benign process with extensive necrosis, which may easily be confused with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Clinical and morphologic features, particularly the presence of abundant karyorrhectic debris along with a paucity of granulocytes, as well as immunohistochemical studies to rule out lymphoma, are most helpful in establishing the correct diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Histiocytes / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia / metabolism
  • Hyperplasia / pathology
  • Lymphatic Diseases / metabolism
  • Lymphatic Diseases / pathology*
  • Lymphoma / metabolism
  • Lymphoma / pathology*