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AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2004 May;25(5):880-91.

MR imaging presentation of intracranial disease associated with Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

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  • 1Department of Neuroradiology, University Clinic of Radiodiagnostics, Vienna, Austria.



Intracranial manifestations of Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) are underestimated in frequency and diversity. We categorized the spectrum of MR imaging changes in LCH.


We retrospectively reviewed 474 MR images in 163 patients with LCH and 55 control subjects. Lesions were characterized by anatomic region and signal intensity. Brain atrophy was assessed.


We noted osseous lesions in the craniofacial or skull bones in 56% of patients, meningeal lesions in 29%, and choroid-plexus involvement in 6%. In the hypothalamic-pituitary region, infundibular thickening occurred in 50%; pronounced hypothalamic mass lesions in 10%; and infundibular atrophy in 29%. The pineal gland had a cystic appearance in 28%, and pineal-gland enlargement (>10 mm) was noted in 14%. Nonspecific paranasal-sinus or mastoid opacifications were seen in 55% of patients versus 20% of controls, and accentuated Virchow-Robin spaces occurred in 70% of patients versus 27% of controls (P <.001). Intra-axial, white-matter parenchymal changes resulted in a leukoencephalopathy-like pattern in 36%. Enhancing lesions in a vascular distribution were noted in 5%. Gray-matter changes suggestive of neurodegeneration were identified in the cerebellar dentate nucleus in 40% and in the supratentorial basal ganglia in 26%. All patients with neurodegenerative lesions had lesions in the extra-axial spaces. Cerebral atrophy was found in 8%.


In LCH, cranial and intracranial changes at MR imaging include 1) lesions of the craniofacial bone and skull base with or without soft-tissue extension; 2) intracranial, extra-axial changes (hypothalamic-pituitary region, meninges, circumventricular organs); 3) intracranial, intra-axial changes (white matter and gray matter); and 4) cerebral atrophy.

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