Objective: The authors examined the incidence and radiologic characteristics of plexiform neurofibromas in neurofibromatosis-1 (NF-1) to define a cohort at greatest risk for malignant nerve-sheath tumors.
Background: Plexiform neurofibromas are a frequent complication of NF-1. They can impair function, produce disfigurement, and be the site for the development of malignant nerve-sheath tumors. The incidence and natural history of plexiform neurofibromas is unknown.
Methods: CT imaging of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis was performed in 91 of 125 consecutive adults (age, > or = 16 years) with NF-1.
Results: Twenty percent of patients had plexiform neurofibromas of the chest in the paraspinal, mediastinal, or supraclavicular area. Approximately 40% of patients had abnormal abdominal/pelvic scans. The paraspinal, sacral plexus, sciatic notch, and perirectal regions were the most common sites. Most plexiform neurofibromas were asymptomatic. Imaging also revealed a number of tumors, including malignant nerve-sheath tumors, adrenal tumors, carcinoids, and schwannomas.
Conclusions: The frequency of plexiform lesions and other tumors in NF-1 indicates that clinicians should monitor young adults carefully; however, imaging characteristics alone cannot reliably distinguish benign from malignant lesions.