Cytopathologic analysis of paraspinal masses: A study of 59 cases with clinicoradiologic correlation

Julie M. Wu, Sheila Sheth, Syed Z. Ali

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Paraspinal masses (PSM) are uncommon and present a wide spectrum of differential diagnoses on fine-needle aspiration (FNA). We analyzed 59 cases of PSM on FNA in a 15-yr period, in the context of clinicoradiologic correlation. Radiologic findings, clinical data, and tissue biopsies were reviewed. Patients were 14-83 yr of age (mean 54.7) with a M:F ratio of 1.36:1. Of the 59 cases, 39 (66%) were deemed diagnostic. Of these, 8 (21%) revealed nonneoplastic lesions and 31 (79%) yielded neoplasms: 2 (6%) benign and 29 (94%) malignant. Of the malignant cases, 22 (76%) were metastatic tumors from various sites, while 7 (24%) were cancers from local spread, which included non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL, 5) and myeloma (2). Benign neoplasms were nerve sheath tumors. Metastatic tumors consisted of adenocarcinoma, 9; squamous-cell carcinoma. 3; renal-cell carcinoma, 1; and non-small-cell carcinoma/not otherwise specified (NOS), 9. Twenty-four (41%) cases received further studies: immunoperoxidase (IPOX) alone, 17 (71%); special stains for microorganisms, 2 (8%); IPOX/other special stains, 4 (17%): and flow cytometry analysis, 1 (4%). Eight (14%) cases received follow-up biopsies. Half of these biopsies added information to previously "nondiagnostic" FNAs. Of the previously "diagnostic" FNAs. tissue biopsy yielded no additional information. Cytopathologic diagnoses were consistent with the pre-FNA radiology analyses in 13 (39%) cases. In instances of radiologic and cytopathologic discrepancy (4 cases, 12%), diagnoses made by FNA reversed the initial radiologic impression of neoplasm to infection, and vice versa. PSMs are rare lesions (0.26% of total FNAs done in 15 yr at our institution). The most common lesion encountered is metastatic adenocarcinoma. followed by NHL. Ancillary studies are helpful in difficult cases. In cases of radiologic/cytopathologic discrepancy, FNA diagnoses are more accurate and decisive for patient management. The sensitivity and specificity of a PSM FNA are 88% and 75% respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-161
Number of pages5
JournalDiagnostic cytopathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2005


  • Carcinoma
  • Cytopathology
  • Fine-needle aspiration
  • Malignant lymphoma
  • Metastasis
  • Paraspinal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology


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