Paraspinal pseudoneoplasms: a series of 58 consultation cases emphasizing the importance of pathology-radiology correlation

John M. Gross, Stephen M. Broski, Benjamin M. Howe, Andrew L. Folpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A variety of non-neoplastic diseases of the spine, including herniated/sequestered intervertebral discs, synovial cysts, and degenerative or post-traumatic changes, may present as mass lesions. Over the past several years, we have seen a large number of such paraspinal pseudoneoplasms in consultation, referred out of concern for malignancy on the part of the clinician, pathologist, or both. Herein, we report our experience with these specimens, emphasizing the clinical, radiologic, and histopathological features that allow their confident distinction from various mesenchymal tumors. Fifty-eight cases were identified within our consultation archives, referred in consultation to exclude malignancy and diagnosed as non-neoplastic disease involving the intervertebral disc, ligamentum flavum, or paraspinal soft tissues (2006–2019). Available radiologic studies were reviewed by 2 musculoskeletal radiologists. The histologic features of all cases were re-evaluated. Available clinical records were reviewed. The masses occurred in adults (median age 62 years, range 20–86 years) with a male predominance (35 males and 23 females). Sites included lumbar spine (N = 33), thoracic spine (N = 15), cervical spine (N = 6), paraspinal region (N = 3), and sacral spine (N = 1). In 44 cases (76%), the referring pathologist regarded the specimen as representing a benign or malignant neoplasm, either primary or metastatic. Fifteen cases (26%) were sent for second opinion at the request of the treating clinician, following an initial malignant diagnosis. Advanced imaging studies were available for re-review in 37 cases (64%) and showed herniated/extruded disc (N = 17), compression fracture (N = 9), synovial cyst (N = 8), and degenerative joint disease (N = 7). Multiple radiologic findings were seen in 9 patients. Histologically, the specimens showed a spectrum of often florid reactive changes involving degenerating disc material, ligamentum flavum, and bone. Awareness that non-neoplastic spinal processes may form pseudoneoplastic mass lesions, and careful clinical-radiologic-pathologic correlation should allow their confident distinction from potential morphologic mimics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-24
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Pathology
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Compression fracture
  • Herniated disc
  • Intervertebral disc histology
  • Paraspinal pseudoneoplasm
  • Pathology–radiology correlation
  • Synovial cyst

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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