Radiological findings of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor: reports of six cases and review of literature

World J Surg Oncol. 2016 May 10:14:142. doi: 10.1186/s12957-016-0899-0.


Background: Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST) is a kind of rare neurogenic tumor. If associated with neurofibromatosis type 1, MPNST usually has a higher mortality. The aim of the article is to assess the imaging characteristics of MPNST and compare them with those of benign peripheral nerve sheath tumor (BPNST) to characterize this tumor.

Methods: Clinical and imaging data of six cases with MPNST and 28 cases with BPNST in our institution since 2011 were retrospectively reviewed. Thirty-three patients have available MR imaging data, and two patients of MPNST also accepted CT scan. One patient accepted CT scan only. Location, size, shape, signal or density, boundary, bone destruction, relation to adjacent nerve, contrast-enhanced features as well as some other signs were assessed and compared with statistical software. Student's t test was used for comparison of continuous variables. Fisher's exact test was used for analysis of nominal variable. A P value ≤0.05 was considered to be statistically significant.

Results: Differences existed between two groups in tumor size ((7.2 ± 3.3)cm in MPNST vs. (3.8 ± 1.4)cm in BPNST), unclear margin (4/6 in MPNST vs. 1/28 in BPNST), eccentricity to the nerve (1/6 in MPNST vs. 21/28 in BPNST), intratumoral lobulation (4/6 in MPNST vs. 2/28 in BPNST), peritumoral edema (3/6 in MPNST vs. 0 in BPNST), and peripheral enhancement (4/6 in MPNST (three of five MR, one CT) vs. 4/28 in BPNST). Bone destruction was observed in one MPNST.

Conclusions: MR imaging is a valuable, non-invasive modality for the diagnosis of MPNST. Peripheral enhancement with non-cystic appearance or remarkable heterogeneous enhancement may be useful for differential diagnosis. Other imaging features such as large size (over 5 cm in diameter), ill-defined margin, intratumoral lobulation, peritumoral edema, and adjacent bone destruction are also supportive of MPNST.

Keywords: MR imaging; Nervous-peripheral; Tomography; X-ray computer.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*