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Mod Pathol. 2011 Apr;24 Suppl 2:S58-65. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2010.126.

Adrenal cortical tumors, pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI 53792, USA.


Distinguishing adrenal cortical adenomas from carcinomas may be a difficult diagnostic problem. The criteria of Weiss are very useful because of their reliance on histologic features. From a practical perspective, the most useful criteria to separate adenomas from carcinomas include tumor size, presence of necrosis and mitotic activity including atypical mitoses. Adrenal cortical neoplasms in pediatric patients are more difficult to diagnose and to separate adenomas from carcinomas. The diagnosis of pediatric adrenal cortical carcinoma requires a higher tumor weight, larger tumor size and more mitoses compared with carcinomas in adults. Pheochromocytomas are chromaffin-derived tumors that develop in the adrenal gland. Paragangliomas are tumors arising from paraganglia that are distributed along the parasympathetic nerves and sympathetic chain. Positive staining for chromogranin and synaptophysin is present in the chief cells, whereas the sustentacular cells are positive for S100 protein. Hereditary conditions associated with pheochromocytomas include multiple endocrine neoplasia 2A and 2B, Von Hippel-Lindau disease and neurofibromatosis I. Hereditary paraganglioma syndromes with mutations of SDHB, SDHC and SDHD are associated with paragangliomas and some pheochromocytomas.

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