Imaging features of spinal tanycytic ependymoma

Neuroradiol J. 2016 Feb;29(1):61-5. doi: 10.1177/1971400915621322. Epub 2016 Jan 11.


Tanycytic ependymoma is an unusual morphological variant of WHO grade II ependymoma, typically arising from the cervical or thoracic spinal cord. Although the literature deals extensively with pathological features of this tumour entity, imaging features have not been well characterised. The purpose of this study was to review magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) features of spinal tanycytic ependymomas reported in the literature to date, exemplified by a case of a patient with tanycytic ependymoma of the conus medullaris presenting to our hospital. A Medline search of the English literature for all previously published cases of spinal tanycytic ependymoma was carried out and the reported MRI features reviewed. The tumours were found to be typically well-demarcated masses, predominantly showing isointensity on T1-weighted signal, and T2-weighted hyperintensity, with variable patterns of contrast enhancement. A cystic component was seen in half of the cases, and in a minority a mural nodule was present within the cyst wall. Associated syrinx formation was observed in one-third of the cases and haemorrhage was rare, which may be helpful pointers in differentiating the lesion from other ependymoma subtypes. In conclusion, MRI characteristics of spinal tanycytic ependymoma are variable and non-specific, and radiological diagnosis thus remains challenging, although certain predominant features are identified in this report. Knowledge of these is important in the diagnostic differentiation from other intramedullary and extramedullary spinal tumours in order to guide appropriate surgical management.

Keywords: MRI; conus medullaris; ependymoma; spinal tumour.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ependymoma / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Pia Mater / pathology*
  • Spinal Cord / pathology*
  • Spinal Cord Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / pathology