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Clin Radiol. 1999 May;54(5):321-7.

With advances in medical imaging can the radiologist reliably diagnose Wilms' tumours?

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  • 1Department of Clinical Radiology, The Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, UK.



To evaluate whether radiologists can accurately differentiate Wilms' tumours from other paediatric abdominal masses with renal involvement using modern imaging methods alone.


From February 1993 to June 1997, 23 patients presented to the Paediatric Oncology Service at The Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh with an intra-abdominal mass which had renal involvement. Nine patients had Wilms' tumours, 12 had neuroblastomas, one patient had xanthogranulomatous pyelonephritis and there was a single case of a mesoblastic nephroma. In each case, two radiologists retrospectively reviewed the initial imaging examinations and independently reached a radiological diagnosis.


The radiologists were concordant and reached the correct diagnosis in 20/23 cases (87%), unsure of the diagnosis in one case (4.3 %) and discordant in two cases (8.7 %). Radiologists should be aware that a mesoblastic nephroma can have identical imaging features to a Wilms' tumour. In most cases, ultrasound and a chest X-ray were sufficient to reach the correct diagnosis although computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging were superior for demonstrating the relationship of the mass to the great vessels, retroperitoneum and spinal canal. Inferior vena cava invasion was strongly predictive of a Wilms' tumour. Displacement of the great vessels, extension of the mass across the mid-line, renal displacement and tumour calcification on CT were more suggestive of a neuroblastoma although these features were also seen in a significant number of patients with Wilms' tumours. Encasement of vessels by tumour, a paravertebral mass and spinal canal invasion were highly predictive of neuroblastoma.


In this study, radiologists were accurate at diagnosing Wilms' tumours using modern imaging methods, however, care should be taken in children who are less than 1 year of age as a mesoblastic nephroma may have identical imaging characteristics.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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