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Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2011 May;93(4):275-80. doi: 10.1308/003588411X571944.

Retroperitoneal tumours: review of management.

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Sarcoma Unit, Department of Surgery, Royal Marsden Hospital, London, UK.



The retroperitoneum can host a wide spectrum of pathologies, including a variety of rare benign tumours and malignant neoplasms that can be either primary or metastatic lesions. Retroperitoneal tumours can cause a diagnostic dilemma and present several therapeutic challenges because of their rarity, relative late presentation and anatomical location, often in close relationship with several vital structures in the retroperitoneal space.


A comprehensive literature search was conducted using PubMed. Relevant international articles published in the last ten years were assessed. The keywords for search purposes included: retroperitoneum, benign, sarcoma, neoplasm, diagnosis and surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy. The search was limited to articles published in English. All articles were read in full by the authors and selected for inclusion based on relevance to this article.


Tumours usually present late and cause symptoms or become palpable once they have reached a significant size. Retroperitoneal tumours are best evaluated with good quality cross-sectional imaging and preoperative histology by core needle biopsy is required when imaging is non-diagnostic. Sarcomas comprise a third of retroperitoneal tumours. Other retroperitoneal neoplasms include lymphomas and epithelial tumours or might represent metastatic disease from known or unknown primary sites. The most common benign pathologies encountered in the retroperitoneum include benign neurogenic tumours, paragangliomas, fibromatosis, renal angiomyolipomas and benign retroperitoneal lipomas.


Complete surgical resection is the only potential curative treatment modality for retroperitoneal sarcomas and is best performed in high-volume centres by a multidisciplinary sarcoma team. The ability completely to resect a retroperitoneal sarcoma and tumour grade remain the most important predictors of local recurrence and disease-specific survival.

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