Challenging differential diagnoses in small biopsies from the sinonasal tract

Semin Diagn Pathol. 2023 Sep;40(5):321-332. doi: 10.1053/j.semdp.2023.04.011. Epub 2023 Apr 14.


Sinonasal biopsy specimens are a challenging area in anatomic pathology. The small, often fragmented or crushed nature of these biopsies can hinder morphologic assessment. Additionally, many of the tumors in this area are rare and share morphologic, and sometime immunophenotypic similarities. In many cases, immunohistochemistry is helpful if not necessary to reach a specific diagnosis. In other cases, a specific diagnosis is not possible and a differential diagnosis must be given on a biopsy specimen despite access to a well-equipped immunohistochemistry laboratory. This review article groups some of the more challenging entities in the sinonasal region based on morphologic patterns. These include low grade squamoid lesions such as sinonasal (Schneiderian) papilloma and DEK::AFF2 rearranged carcinoma, glandular neoplasms such as intestinal and non-intestinal type sinonasal adenocarcinoma, high-grade carcinomas such as HPV-related multiphenotypic sinonasal carcinoma, NUT carcinoma and SWI/SNF deficient carcinomas, small round blue cell tumors such as teratocarcinosarcoma, neuroendocrine carcinoma and olfactory neuroblastoma, and finally, low grade spindle cell neoplasms such as glomangiopericytoma, biphenotypic sinonasal sarcoma and solitary fibrous tumor.

Keywords: Biphenotypic sinonasal sarcoma; Olfactory neuroblastoma; Sinonasal carcinoma; Sinonasal hamartoma; Sinonasal papilloma; Solitary fibrous tumor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Biopsy
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Paranasal Sinus Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Paranasal Sinus Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Paranasal Sinuses* / pathology
  • Sarcoma*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor