Thymic Parenchymal Hyperplasia

Mod Pathol. 2023 Aug;36(8):100207. doi: 10.1016/j.modpat.2023.100207. Epub 2023 May 5.


Thymic hyperplasia is a rare condition generally caused by lymphoid follicular hyperplasia associated with autoimmune disorders. True thymic parenchymal hyperplasia unassociated with lymphoid follicular hyperplasia is extremely rare and may give rise to difficulties in diagnosis. We have studied 44 patients with true thymic hyperplasia (38 females and 6 males) aged 7 months to 64 years (mean, 36 years). Eighteen patients presented with symptoms of chest discomfort or shortness of breath; in 20 patients, the lesions were discovered incidentally. Imaging studies demonstrated enlargement of the mediastinum by a mass lesion suspicious for malignancy. All patients were treated with complete surgical excision. The tumors measured from 3.5 to 24 cm (median, 10 cm; mean, 10.46 cm). Histologic examination showed lobules of thymic tissue displaying well-developed corticomedullary architecture, with scattered Hassall corpuscles separated by mature adipose tissue and bounded by a thin fibrous capsule. No cases showed evidence of lymphoid follicular hyperplasia, cytologic atypia, or confluence of the lobules. Immunohistochemical studies showed a normal pattern of distribution for keratin-positive thymic epithelial cells against a background rich in CD3/TdT/CD1a+ lymphocytes. Twenty-nine cases had an initial clinical or pathological diagnosis of thymoma or thymoma vs thymic hyperplasia. Clinical follow-up in 26 cases showed that all patients were alive and well between 5 and 15 years after diagnosis (mean, 9 years). Thymic parenchymal hyperplasia causing significant enlargement of the normal thymus that is sufficient to cause symptoms or worrisome imaging findings should be considered in the differential diagnosis of anterior mediastinal masses. The criteria for distinguishing such lesions from lymphocyte-rich thymoma are presented.

Keywords: thymic follicular hyperplasia; thymus; true thymic hyperplasia; type B1 thymoma.

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia
  • Lymphadenopathy*
  • Male
  • Thymoma* / pathology
  • Thymus Hyperplasia* / complications
  • Thymus Neoplasms* / pathology