Which findings on neuroimaging are characteristic of primary central nervous system lymphoma (PCNSL)?

Updated: Jan 19, 2018
  • Author: Tarakad S Ramachandran, MBBS, MBA, MPH, FAAN, FACP, FAHA, FRCP, FRCPC, FRS, LRCP, MRCP, MRCS; Chief Editor: Stephen A Berman, MD, PhD, MBA  more...
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Patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) may have coexisting infections; any change in neurologic examination findings or neuroimaging studies should be accordingly investigated broadly for the possibility of a diagnosis besides PCNSL.

The predilection of PCNSL for certain cerebral sites gives rise to its characteristic appearance on neuroimaging studies. Seventy-five percent of immunocompetent patients with these tumors have solitary lesions. The dense cellularity of the tumor accounts for its isodense or hyperdense appearance on nonenhanced CT scan and hypointense appearance on long TR-weighted MRI. [2]

Following administration of either iodinated contrast for CT or gadolinium for MRI, almost all PCNSLs enhance homogeneously. PCNSLs are assumed to be diffusely infiltrative at the time of presentation. The areas of disease are not visible on neuroimaging studies because they are behind a relatively intact blood-brain barrier.

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