Erdheim-Chester disease. Clinical and radiologic characteristics of 59 cases

Medicine (Baltimore). 1996 May;75(3):157-69. doi: 10.1097/00005792-199605000-00005.


We made a retrospective evaluation of clinical and radiologic features, treatment, and outcome of Erdheim-Chester disease, a rare non-Langerhans cell histiocytosis. We had 7 patients coming from 3 French teaching hospitals and reviewed 52 cases from the literature. These cases were considered to have Erdheim-Chester disease when they had either typical bone radiographs (symmetrical long bones osteosclerosis) and/or histologic criteria disclosing histiocytic infiltration without features for Langerhans cell histiocytosis (no S-100 protein, no intracytoplasmic Birbeck granules). Ages at diagnosis ranged from 7 to 84 years (mean +/- SD = 53 +/- 14 yr) with a male/female ratio of 33/26. Bone pain was the most frequent clinical sign (28/59), mostly located in the lower limbs. Exophthalmos and diabetes insipidus were found in respectively 16/59 and 17/59 patients. General symptoms (fever, weight loss) and "xanthomas" (mainly located on the eyelids) were present in 11/59 patients. Retroperitoneal involvement was found in 17/59 patients. Skeletal X-ray showed typical osteosclerosis of the diaphysis of the long bones in 45/59 patients. Bone radiographs showed osteolytic lesions of the flat bones (skull, ribs) in 8 patients. Histologic diagnosis was performed after a bone biopsy (28 patients), a retroorbital biopsy (9 patients), and/or a biopsy of the retroperitoneal infiltration or the kidney (11 patients). Six of our 7 patients but only 5 of 52 patients from the literature had the complete histologic criteria, disclosing no Birbeck granules or S-100 immunostaining. In other cases, histologic results usually described a xanthogranulomatous infiltration by foamy histiocytes nested in fibrosis. Treatment was corticotherapy (20/59), chemotherapy (8/59), radiotherapy (6/59), surgery (3/59) and immunotherapy (1 patient). Twenty-two patients died after a mean follow-up of 32 +/- 30 mo (range, 3-120 mo). In conclusion, Erdheim-Chester disease may be confused with Langerhans cell histiocytosis as it sometimes shares the same clinical (exophthalmos, diabetes insipidus) or radiologic (osteolytic lesions) findings. However, it also appears to have distinctive features. Patients are older and have a worse prognosis than those with Langerhans cell histiocytosis, and the diagnosis relies on the association of specific radiologic and histologic findings.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Female
  • Histiocytosis / complications*
  • Histiocytosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Histiocytosis / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography