Venous congestive myelopathy: A mimic of neoplasia

Fausto J. Rodriguez, Brian A. Crum, William E. Krauss, Bernd W. Scheithauer, Caterina Giannini

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28 Scopus citations


Venous congestive myelopathy is a progressive disorder frequently associated with arteriovenous fistulas, usually dural. By causing diffuse spinal cord enlargement and enhancement on imaging, it may simulate a neoplasm and prompt a biopsy. We evaluated the biopsy findings in seven such patients (M = 5, F = 2, mean age 59 ± 11 years) who presented variably with progressive lower extremity weakness (86%), bowel and bladder dysfunction (86%), sensory changes (86%) or pain (29%). Preoperative magnetic resonance imaging showed spinal cord enlargement with T2-hyperintensity (86%) and contrast enhancement (57%) at the cervical (14%), thoracolumbar (57%), and/or conus medullaris (57%) level. Prebiopsy spinal angiogram, performed in two patients, was negative. Spinal cord biopsy showed architecturally distorted parenchyma with gliosis and thick hyalinized vessels (100%), variable myelin loss (71%), mild glial atypia (57%), hemosiderin deposition (71%), Rosenthal fibers (43%), vascular thrombosis (29%), and necrosis (29%), features highly suggestive of venous congestive myelopathy. Postbiopsy spinal angiograms were performed in five patients. A dural arteriovenous fistula was identified by selective angiography in three patients, including the two with a negative preoperative angiogram. Additional postbiopsy angiographic studies in two patients were negative, and two patients were followed up without angiography. Mean follow-up after biopsy was 13.6 months. Histologic changes characteristic of venous congestive myelopathy may be seen in spinal cord biopsies with or without an associated fistula. Recognition of this entity by surgical pathologists is important, leading to the correct identification of a non-neoplastic lesion as well as of a surgically treatable disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)710-718
Number of pages9
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005


  • Foix-Alajounine syndrome
  • Progressive myelopathy
  • Spinal cord tumor
  • Spinal dural arteriovenous fistula
  • Venous congestive myelopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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