Imaging in gynecological disease (26): clinical and ultrasound characteristics of benign retroperitoneal pelvic peripheral-nerve-sheath tumors

Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2023 Nov;62(5):727-738. doi: 10.1002/uog.26223.


Objective: To describe the clinical and sonographic characteristics of benign, retroperitoneal, pelvic peripheral-nerve-sheath tumors (PNSTs).

Methods: This was a retrospective study of patients with a benign, retroperitoneal, pelvic PNST who had undergone preoperative ultrasound examination at a single gynecologic oncology center between 1 January 2018 and 31 August 2022. All ultrasound images, videoclips and final histological specimens of benign PNSTs were reviewed side-by-side in order to: describe the ultrasound appearance of the tumors, using the terminology of the International Ovarian Tumor Analysis (IOTA), Morphological Uterus Sonographic Assessment (MUSA) and Vulvar International Tumor Analysis (VITA) groups, following a predefined ultrasound assessment form; describe their origin in relation to nerves and pelvic anatomy; and assess the association between their ultrasound features and histotopography. A review of the literature reporting benign, retroperitoneal, pelvic PNSTs with preoperative ultrasound examination was performed.

Results: Five women (mean age, 53 years) with a benign, retroperitoneal, pelvic PNST were identified, four with a schwannoma and one with a neurofibroma, of which all were sporadic and solitary. All patients had good-quality ultrasound images and videoclips and final biopsy of surgically excised tumors, except one patient managed conservatively who had only a core needle biopsy. In all cases, the findings were incidental. The five PNSTs ranged in maximum diameter from 31 to 50 mm. All five PNSTs were solid, moderately vascular tumors, with non-uniform echogenicity, well-circumscribed by hyperechogenic epineurium and with no acoustic shadowing. Most of the masses were round (n = 4 (80%)), and contained small, irregular, anechoic, cystic areas (n = 3 (60%)) and hyperechogenic foci (n = 5 (100%)). In the woman with a schwannoma in whom surgery was not performed, follow-up over a 3-year period showed minimal growth (1.5 mm/year) of the mass. We also summarize the findings of 47 cases of benign retroperitoneal schwannoma and neurofibroma identified in a literature search.

Conclusions: On ultrasound examination, no imaging characteristics differentiate reliably between benign schwannomas and neurofibromas. Moreover, benign PNSTs show some similar features to malignant retroperitoneal tumors. They are solid lesions with intralesional blood vessels and show degenerative changes such as cystic areas and hyperechogenic foci. Therefore, ultrasound-guided biopsy may play a pivotal role in their diagnosis. If confirmed to be benign PNSTs, these tumors can be managed conservatively, with ultrasound surveillance. © 2023 The Authors. Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Keywords: PNST; diagnostic imaging; female; nerve-sheath neoplasms; neurilemmoma; neurofibroma; retroperitoneal neoplasm; schwannoma; ultrasonography.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Neurilemmoma* / diagnostic imaging
  • Neurilemmoma* / pathology
  • Neurofibroma* / diagnosis
  • Neurofibroma* / pathology
  • Neurofibroma* / surgery
  • Pelvic Neoplasms*
  • Retroperitoneal Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography