Dysplastic cerebellar gangliocytoma

Last revised by Dr Daniel J Bell on 23 Nov 2021

Dysplastic cerebellar gangliocytomas perhaps better known as Lhermitte-Duclos disease is a rare tumor of the cerebellum appearing as thickening and increase in T2 signal of the cerebellar folia giving this lesion a characteristic striated appearance. 

Dysplastic cerebellar gangliocytomas typically present in young adults, although they has been encountered at all ages 3,6.

A number of associated conditions have been described 1,3, including:

Small tumors may be asymptomatic or only present with relatively subtle cerebellar signs (e.g. dysmetria). When larger, symptoms are typically related to raised intracranial pressure, obstructive hydrocephalus and to a lesser degree, cerebellar dysfunction 3.

Dysplastic cerebellar gangliocytomas are designated as WHO grade 1 tumors and considered one of a number of glioneuronal and neuronal tumors in the current WHO classification of CNS tumors 9.

Interestingly the genetics of childhood-onset appears different from the more common adult-onset form. In the adult form, PTEN mutations are invariably found, lending additional weight to Lhermitte-Duclos disease being a manifestation of Cowden disease. In such cases, it is termed COLD syndrome (Cowden-Lhermitte-Duclos syndrome) 7. In contrast, in children, PTEN mutations are absent 6

Dysplastic cerebellar gangliocytomas are usually single and unilateral, presenting as a discrete region of cerebellar hypertrophy 6

Derangement of the normal laminar cellular organization of the cerebellum is present. There is thickening of the outer molecular cell layer, loss of the middle Purkinje cell layer, and infiltration of the inner granular cell layer with dysplastic ganglion cells of various sizes 6.

The abnormal tissue involves the cerebellar cortex and is usually confined to one hemisphere, occasionally extending to the vermis but only rarely extending to the contralateral hemisphere 1.

  • may show a non-specific hypoattenuating cerebellar mass
  • calcification is sometimes seen 2,5

Widened cerebellar folia with a striated/tigroid appearance. Also described as "corduroy/laminated" appearance.8

  • T1: hypointense 2
  • T2: hyperintense with apparently preserved cortical striations 1
  • DWI: similar to normal cortex
  • T1 C+ (Gd)
    • enhancement is rare
    • if present usually superficial, possibly due to vascular proliferation 4
  • MR spectroscopy
    • elevated lactate 1,2
    • slightly reduced NAA (by about 10%) 1,2
    • reduced myo-inositol (by 30-80%)
    • reduced choline (by 20-50%)
    • reduced Cho/Cr ratio 2
  • FDG-PET: shows increased uptake
  • Tl-201 SPECT: shows increased uptake

The dysplastic mass grows very slowly, and initial treatment revolves around treating hydrocephalus. Surgical resection is often curative, with only a few case reports of recurrence 3. Importantly it is crucial to remember the association with Cowden syndrome, hence, increased risk of other neoplasms such as breast, endometrial and thyroid cancers. Therefore, a recommendation for further imaging or clinical assessment of possible tumors in these locations should be included in the radiologist's report.

It is named after the French neurologist and neuropsychiatrist, Jacques Jean Lhermitte (1877-1959), with his physician colleague P Duclos, who jointly described the condition in 1920 6.

The appearance is very characteristic and usually little differential exists, particularly when appearances are typical.

In the setting of sepsis or acute deterioration, one should consider cerebellitis or subacute cerebellar infarction.

The appearance may be mimicked by extensively nodular medulloblastoma (SHH molecular subgroup). 

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Cases and figures

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