C2 nerve root neurofibromas have been reported frequently in patients with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), although their genetic and imaging characteristics are unexplored. The aim of this study was to characterize genetic and spinal imaging findings in a large cohort of NF1 patients with C2 neurofibromas.
The authors performed a review of national NF1 referrals between 2009 and 2016. Inclusion criteria were at least 1 C2 root neurofibroma and cervical-spine or whole-spine MRI scans available for analysis. Blinded imaging review was performed by a neuroradiologist with an interest in NF1.
Fifty-four patients with 106 C2 neurofibromas were included. The median age was 32.5 years (range 15–61 years), and there were slightly more male patients (33 vs 21 female patients). Splice-site (30%) and missense (20%) variants were frequent. Spinal neurofibromas were distributed in all spine regions (65%) or in the cervical spine alone (22%). Most (93%) C2 neurofibromas were visible on MRI scans of the head. Intradural invasion and cord compression in the cervical spine included the C2 level in 95% and 80% of patients, respectively. Compared with all other cervical spine neurofibromas in these patients, C2 neurofibromas had higher rates of intraspinal extension (75% vs 32%; OR 6.20, 95% CI 3.85–9.97; p < 0.001), intradural invasion (53% vs 26%; OR 3.20, 95% CI 2.08–4.92; p < 0.001), and cord compression (25% vs 13%; OR 2.26, 95% CI 1.35–3.79; p = 0.002). However, C2 neurofibromas had lower rates of extraforaminal growth beyond the transverse process (12% vs 62%; OR 0.09, 95% CI 0.05–0.16; p < 0.001).
C2 neurofibromas are associated with an aggressive intraspinal phenotype, limited growth outside the spinal canal, and an uncommon genetic profile. These observations require future study.