Primary brachial plexus tumors: imaging, surgical, and pathological findings in 25 patients

Devin K. Binder M.D., Ph.D., Justin S. Smith M.D., Ph.D., and Nicholas M. Barbaro M.D.
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  • Department of Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, California
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Object

The authors report on the treatment of primary brachial plexus tumors in 25 patients at the University of California, San Francisco. They compare their findings with those obtained in similar series.

Methods

The authors reviewed the electronic and medical records, radiological images, operative reports, and pathological findings in 25 consecutive cases of primary brachial plexus tumors. Cases of metastatic lesions or adjacent neoplasms extending into and involving the brachial plexus were excluded.

At presentation patients ranged in age from 19 to 71 years (mean 47 ±15 years), and neurofibromatosis was present in eight patients (32%). Presenting signs and symptoms included palpable mass (60%), numbness/paresthesias (44%), radiating pain (44%), local pain (16%), and weakness (12%). Duration of symptoms ranged from 2 months to 10 years. Neuroimaging revealed lesions ranging widely in size (volume ~1 to >100 ml). Pathological diagnoses included schwannoma (15 [60%]), neurofibroma (five [20%]), malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (four [16%]), and desmoid tumor (one [4%]).

Conclusions

Primary tumors arising in the brachial plexus are rare. Careful workup, surgical technique, and attention to pathological diagnosis optimize management.

Abbreviations used in this paper:

EBRT = external-beam radio-therapy; LSUHSC = Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center; MPNST = malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor; MR = magnetic resonance; NF = neurofibromatosis; SD = standard deviation; UCSF = University of California at San Francisco.

Object

The authors report on the treatment of primary brachial plexus tumors in 25 patients at the University of California, San Francisco. They compare their findings with those obtained in similar series.

Methods

The authors reviewed the electronic and medical records, radiological images, operative reports, and pathological findings in 25 consecutive cases of primary brachial plexus tumors. Cases of metastatic lesions or adjacent neoplasms extending into and involving the brachial plexus were excluded.

At presentation patients ranged in age from 19 to 71 years (mean 47 ±15 years), and neurofibromatosis was present in eight patients (32%). Presenting signs and symptoms included palpable mass (60%), numbness/paresthesias (44%), radiating pain (44%), local pain (16%), and weakness (12%). Duration of symptoms ranged from 2 months to 10 years. Neuroimaging revealed lesions ranging widely in size (volume ~1 to >100 ml). Pathological diagnoses included schwannoma (15 [60%]), neurofibroma (five [20%]), malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (four [16%]), and desmoid tumor (one [4%]).

Conclusions

Primary tumors arising in the brachial plexus are rare. Careful workup, surgical technique, and attention to pathological diagnosis optimize management.

Abbreviations used in this paper:

EBRT = external-beam radio-therapy; LSUHSC = Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center; MPNST = malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor; MR = magnetic resonance; NF = neurofibromatosis; SD = standard deviation; UCSF = University of California at San Francisco.

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