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Skeletal Radiol. 2008 Apr;37(4):291-9. doi: 10.1007/s00256-007-0435-y. Epub 2008 Jan 8.

Distinguishing benign notochordal cell tumors from vertebral chordoma.

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Department of Surgical Pathology, Sapporo Medical University School of Medicine, S1W16 Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-8543, Japan.



The objective was to characterize imaging findings of benign notochordal cell tumors (BNCTs).


Clinical and imaging data for 9 benign notochordal cell tumors in 7 patients were reviewed retrospectively. Conventional radiographs (n = 9), bone scintigrams (n = 2), computed tomographic images (n = 7), and magnetic resonance images (n = 8) were reviewed. Eight of the 9 lesions were stained with hematoxylin-eosin and microscopically examined.


There were 3 male and 4 female patients with an age range of 22 to 55 years (average age, 44 years). Two patients had two lesions at different sites. The lesions involved the cervical spine in 4 patients, the lumbar spine in 2, the sacrum in 2, and the coccyx in 1. The most common symptom was mild pain. The lesions of 2 patients were found incidentally during imaging studies for unrelated conditions. Five patients underwent surgical procedures. One patient died of surgical complications. All other patients have been well without recurrent or progressive disease for 13 to 84 months. Radiographs usually did not reveal significant abnormality. Five lesions exhibited subtle sclerosis and 1 showed intense sclerosis. Technetium bone scan did not reveal any abnormal uptake. Computed tomography images had increased density within the vertebral bodies. The lesions had a homogeneous low signal intensity on T1-weighted magnetic resonance images and a high intensity on T2-weighted images without soft-tissue mass. Microscopically, lesions contained sheets of adipocyte-like vacuolated chordoid cells without a myxoid matrix.


Benign notochordal cell tumors may be found during routine clinical examinations and do not require surgical management unless they show extraosseous disease. These tumors should be recognized by radiologists, pathologists, and orthopedic surgeons to prevent operations, which usually are extensive.

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