Clinical Neuroscience

Life threatening rare lymphomas presenting as longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis: a diagnostic challenge

TOLVAJ Balázs1, HAHN Katalin2, NAGY Zsuzsanna2, VADVÁRI Árpád3, CSOMOR Judit4, GELPI Ellen5, ILLÉS Zsolt6,7, GARZULY Ferenc1

JULY 30, 2020

Clinical Neuroscience - 2020;73(07-08)


Background and aims – Description of two cases of rare intravascular large B-cell lymphoma and secondary T-cell lymphoma diagnosed postmortem, that manifested clinically as longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis (LETM). We discuss causes of diagnostic difficulties, deceptive radiological and histological investigations, and outline diagnostic procedures based on our and previously reported cases. Case reports – Our first case, a 48-year-old female was admitted to the neurological department due to paraparesis. MRI suggested LETM, but the treatments were ineffective. She died after four weeks because of pneumonia and untreatable polyserositis. Pathological examination revealed intravascular large B-cell lymphoma (IVL). Our second case, a 61-year-old man presented with headache and paraparesis. MRI showed small bitemporal lesions and lesions suggesting LETM. Diagnostic investigations were unsuccessful, including tests for possible lymphoma (CSF flow cytometry and muscle biopsy for suspected IVL). Chest CT showed focal inflammation in a small area of the lung, and adrenal adenoma. Brain biopsy sample from the affected temporal area suggested T-cell mediated lymphocytic (paraneoplastic or viral) meningoencephalitis and excluded diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. The symptoms worsened, and the patient died in the sixth week of disease. The pathological examination of the presumed adenoma in the adrenal gland, the pancreatic tail and the lung lesions revealed peripheral T-cell lymphoma, as did the brain and spinal cord lesions. Even at histological examination, the T-cell lymphoma had the misleading appearance of inflammatory condition as did the MRI. Conclusion – Lymphoma can manifest as LETM. In cases of etiologically unclear atypical LETM in patients older than 40 years, a random skin biopsy (with subcutaneous adipose tissue) from the thigh and from the abdomen is strongly recommended as soon as possible. This may detect IVL and provide the possibility of prompt chemotherapy. In case of suspicion of lymphoma, parallel examination of the CSF by flow cytometry is also recommended. If skin biopsy is negative but lymphoma suspicion remains high, biopsy from other sites (bone marrow, lymph nodes or adrenal gland lesion) or from a simultaneously existing cerebral lesion is suggested, to exclude or prove diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, IVL, or a rare T-cell lymphoma.


  1. Department of Pathology, Markusovszky University Teaching Hospital, Szombathely
  2. Department of Neurology, Markusovszky University Teaching Hospital, Szombathely
  3. Department of Radiology, Markusovszky University Teaching Hospital, Szombathely
  4. 1st Department of Pathology and Experimental Cancer Research, Semmelweis University, Budapest
  5. Division of Neuropathology and Neurochemistry, Department of Neurology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  6. Department of Neurology, Odense University Hospital, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark,Department of Neurology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Pecs, Pecs.
  7. Department of Neurology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Pecs, Pecs



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