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Hum Pathol. 2005 Mar;36(3):282-90.

Lymphomatosis cerebri as a cause of white matter dementia.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, CO 80262, USA.


Primary central nervous system lymphoma most often presents as a solitary, isolated lesion in immunocompetent patients. Rarely, the disease presents as a diffuse, infiltrating condition without formation of a cohesive mass, a pattern called lymphomatosis cerebri. We present 3 immunocompetent individuals who developed rapidly progressive dementia. Magnetic resonance imaging features mimicked other disorders of white matter and prompted preoperative diagnoses of Binswanger's disease (subcortical ischemic vascular dementia), unknown leukoencephalopathy, viral infection, or infiltrating glioma. Neuropathologic examination at biopsy (Poon T, Matoso I, Tchertkoff V, Weitzner I Jr, Gade M. CT features of primary cerebral lymphoma in AIDS and non-AIDS patients. J Comput Assist Tomogr . 1989;13:6-9) and autopsy (Schwaighofer BW, Hesselink JR, Press GA, Wolf RL, Healy ME, Berthoty DP. Primary intracranial CNS lymphoma: MR manifestations. Am J Neuroradiol . 1993;10:725-9) demonstrated nonnecrotic, diffusely infiltrating, large-cell B-cell lymphoma of white matter, with relative sparing of gray matter, and without significant leptomeningeal involvement or bulky periventricular disease at autopsy. Microglial and astrocytic reactions, but only subtle myelin pallor, were evident as individual tumor cells permeated the entire brain and spinal cord, albeit with considerable variation in cell density. Individual tumor cells could be identified from the optic nerve to spinal cord, documenting the "whole-brain" nature of the disease. CD20 immunostaining was necessary to fully appreciate the extent of individual lymphoma cell percolation through the white matter. The neurobehavioral deficits manifested by these patients demonstrate that lymphomatosis cerebri is an additional neoplastic cause of white matter dementia and can be added to the growing list of disorders responsible for this syndrome.

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