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Am J Surg Pathol. 2000 Mar;24(3):352-61.

Composite hemangioendothelioma: a complex, low-grade vascular lesion mimicking angiosarcoma.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, South African Institute for Medical Research, Johannesburg.


Eight cases of a previously uncharacterized vascular neoplasm, showing varying combinations of benign, low-grade malignant, and malignant vascular components are described. Seven tumors occurred in the dermis and/or subcutis and one occurred in the oral submucosa. The patients were all adults with a median age of 39.5 years (range, 21-71 years). Five patients were men. The tumors arose predominantly in the hands and feet, and the lesions were usually of several years duration. The tumors were composed of a complex admixture of histologic components that varied from tumor to tumor, such that no two tumors looked precisely the same. This was due to variation in the proportions of each component as well as the manner in which each component was distributed throughout each lesion. The predominant histologic components were epithelioid hemangioendothelioma (HE) and retiform HE, which were each present in seven of the tumors. Areas of spindle cell HE were identified in four lesions. Angiosarcoma-like elements were identified in seven tumors. One of the tumors was associated with an arteriovenous malformation and one was associated with an area of lymphangioma circumscriptum. Of six cases with follow up (median duration, 6.5 years), three have recurred locally and, to date, only one has metastasized. We think composite HE is best regarded as a low-grade malignant vascular neoplasm, and the available data suggest that it behaves more favorably than conventional angiosarcoma. The existence of these composite lesions has led to careful reexamination of the concept of HE. The term HE, in that it is currently synonymous with a low-grade malignant vascular tumor, should be reserved for lesions that have true metastatic potential, albeit with low frequency.

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