Primary spinal paragangliomas: a clinicopathological and immunohistochemical study of 30 cases

Histopathology. 1997 Aug;31(2):167-73. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2559.1997.2300841.x.


Aims: Extra-adrenal paragliomas are neoplasms which have been the subject of much debate regarding parameters to establish their biological behaviour. This study describes the clinicopathological and immunohistochemical features of 30 cases of spinal paragliomas.

Methods and results: There were 15 male and 15 female patients. The median age at diagnosis was 46 years (range 20-74 years). Fourteen patients presented with back pain, two with numbness of the lower extremities, one with difficulty in walking and one with spinal cord compression. Nineteen tumours were located in the lumbar region, six in the cauda equina, two in the filum terminale, two in the thoracic region and one in the cervical region. All patients underwent gross total excision. The size of the tumours ranged from 10 to 50 mm. Histologically, 18 neoplasms showed alveolar (Zellballen) pattern, seven a spindle component, two eosinophilic granular cells suggestive of oncocytic metaplasia, two melanin pigment and one ganglion cells. Positive immunohistochemical results include: neuron-specific enolase 23/23 (100%), synaptophysin 21/23 (91%), S100 protein 22/23 (95%, sustentacular cells), leu-enkephalin 11/23 (47%), somatostatin 8/23 (34%), focal glial fibrillary acidic protein 7/23 (30%), focal keratin 5/23 (21%), neurofilament proteins 3/23 (13%) and adrenocorticotrophic hormine (ACTH) 1/23 (4%). Follow-up information obtained in 20 patients show 17 patients alive over a period of 6-216 months. One patient had bone metastases. Two patients died of unrelated causes, including one of congestive heart failure and one of myocardial infarction.

Conclusions: In our experience, spinal paragangliomas behave as slow-growing tumours susceptible to potential cure by total excision. We agree with the current World Health Organization (WHO) classification as grade I tumours. Less than 1% may be locally aggressive. Spinal paragangliomas immunoreact not only for conventional neuroendocrine markers but also for peptides including somatostatin and ACTH and focally for the epithelial marker keratin.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paraganglioma / metabolism
  • Paraganglioma / pathology*
  • Spinal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Spinal Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor