Neurofibromatosis from Head to Toe: What the Radiologist Needs to Know

Radiographics. 2022 Jul-Aug;42(4):1123-1144. doi: 10.1148/rg.210235. Epub 2022 Jun 24.


Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) are autosomal dominant inherited neurocutaneous disorders or phakomatoses secondary to mutations in the NF1 and NF2 tumor suppressor genes, respectively. Although they share a common name, NF1 and NF2 are distinct disorders with a wide range of multisystem manifestations that include benign and malignant tumors. Imaging plays an essential role in diagnosis, surveillance, and management of individuals with NF1 and NF2. Therefore, it is crucial for radiologists to be familiar with the imaging features of NF1 and NF2 to allow prompt diagnosis and appropriate management. Key manifestations of NF1 include café-au-lait macules, axillary or inguinal freckling, neurofibromas or plexiform neurofibromas, optic pathway gliomas, Lisch nodules, and osseous lesions such as sphenoid dysplasia, all of which are considered diagnostic features of NF1. Other manifestations include focal areas of signal intensity in the brain, low-grade gliomas, interstitial lung disease, various abdominopelvic neoplasms, scoliosis, and vascular dysplasia. The various NF1-associated abdominopelvic neoplasms can be categorized by their cellular origin: neurogenic neoplasms, interstitial cells of Cajal neoplasms, neuroendocrine neoplasms, and embryonal neoplasms. Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors and intracranial tumors are the leading contributors to mortality in NF1. Classic manifestations of NF2 include schwannomas, meningiomas, and ependymomas. However, NF2 may have shared cutaneous manifestations with NF1. Lifelong multidisciplinary management is critical for patients with either disease. The authors highlight the genetics and molecular pathogenesis, clinical and pathologic features, imaging manifestations, and multidisciplinary management and surveillance of NF1 and NF2. Online supplemental material is available for this article. ©RSNA, 2022.

MeSH terms

  • Glioma* / complications
  • Humans
  • Meningeal Neoplasms*
  • Neurocutaneous Syndromes*
  • Neurofibromatosis 1* / complications
  • Neurofibromatosis 1* / diagnostic imaging
  • Neurofibromatosis 1* / genetics
  • Radiologists
  • Toes / pathology