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Arquivos de Neuro-Psiquiatria

Print version ISSN 0004-282X

Arq. Neuro-Psiquiatr. vol.71 no.2 São Paulo Feb. 2013 



Bilateral plexiform neurofibromas of the brachial and lumbosacral plexuses


Neurofibroma plexiforme bilateral dos plexos braquial e lombossacral



Fernando H. SouzaI; Carlos B. DabdoubI; Silvya N. BernardinoII; Elisabeth Nascimento SilveiraIII; Silvio LitvinIV; Hildo Azevedo-FilhoI

IDepartment of Neurosurgery, Restauração Hospital, Recife PE, Brazil
IIDepartment of Neurology, Hospital Getúlio Vargas, Recife PE, Brazil
IIIDepartment of Nursing, Restauração Hospital, Recife PE, Brazil
IVDepartment of Radiology, Restauração Hospital, Recife PE, Brazil




Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF-1) is one the most common autosomal dominant conditions affecting the nervous system1. Plexiform neurofibroma (PN) is a benign tumor that basically defines the diagnosis of NF-1. These entities consist of multiple, twisted masses that grow along the axis of a large nerve, infiltrating and separating normal nerve fascicles. Malignant transformation is the main associated complication. Surgery is frequently reserved until PNs have progressed to the point of causing functional compromise, esthetic deformity or pain2. This paper describes a case of plexiform neurofibromas of the brachial and lumbosacral plexuses, with presentation of the clinical and radiological findings.



An 18-year-old female patient was referred to a neurosurgery reference service with a history of mass lesion in the left cervical region, progressing to the right cervical region two months after the onset of symptoms. Physical examination revealed a nodule, painless upon palpation, in both cervical regions (Fig 1). "Café au lait" spots were seen on the patient's back and cutaneous and subcutaneous neurofibromas were seen over the extremities. The patient reported family history of NF-1, but she had not undergone any clinical follow-up. Neurological examination was normal.



Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brachial plexus was solicited and revealed the T2 weighted sequence, multiple, hyperintense, lobular, solid, expansive tumors in the distribution of the brachial plexus bilaterally extending to the anterior mediastinum and invading the spinal canal (Fig 2). Lumbosacral plexus MRI showed impairment of both plexuses and suggested the presence of a tumor toward the lumbosacral neural foramens (Fig 3) and its extension to the pelvic region (Fig 4).







An incisional biopsy was performed on the left cervical tumor and the histological findings were compatible with neurofibroma.

During the four-year follow-up involving imaging exams, the patient had been asymptomatic and free of neurological deficit. Thus, the decision was to maintain conservative management.



PN is a common manifestation of NF-1. This entity may be classified as a benign peripheral nerve sheath tumor that involves multiple nerve fascicles or branches of major nerves3.

MRI is the method of choice for the diagnosis and follow-up of neurofibromas. In T1 weighted image, a PN is isointense in relation to muscle tissue. In T2 weighted sequence, a PN is seen as a hyperintense, homogeneous image with "target sign", owing to the central fibrous tissue surrounded by myxoid tissue4.

Malignant transformation is the leading complication of PN. The lifetime risk of this transformation is estimated at 15 to 20% in patients with NF-15. Clinical signs of malignant degeneration include the emergence of consistent pain, neurological deficit and an increase in the tumor mass. In the present case, the patient did not present clinical signs of malignant transformation throughout the entire follow-up.

The treatment of PNs in patients with NF-1 consists of regular follow-up examinations involving serial physical evaluations and neuroimaging studies2. This was the conduct used in the present case.



1. Williams VC, Lucas J, Babcock MA, et al. Neurofibromatosis Type I Revisited. Pediatrics 2009;133:123-124        [ Links ]

2. Serletis D, Parkin P, Bouffet E, et al. Massive plexiform neurofibromas in childhood: natural history and management issues. J Neurosurg 2007;106:363-367        [ Links ]

3. Al-Otibi M, Rutka JT. Neurosurgical implications of neurofibromatosis type I in children. Neurosurg Focus 2006;19:E2        [ Links ]

4. Krandsdorf MJ, Murphey MD. Neurogenic tumors. In: Krandsdorf MJ (Ed). Imaging of soft tissue tumors. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, USA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006:335-348.         [ Links ]

5. Anghileri M, Miceli R, Fiore M, et al. Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors: Prognostic factors and survival in a series of patients treated at a single institution. Cancer 2006;107: 1065-1074.         [ Links ]



Fernando Henrique Souza
Departamento de Neurocirurgia, Hospital da Restauração; Avenida Agamenon Magalhães s/n; 52010-040 Recife PE - Brasil

Received 24 May 2012;
Received in final form 11 July 2012;
Accepted 18 July 2012
Conflict of interest: There is no conflict of interest to declare.

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