Nodular fasciitis is a rapidly growing non-neoplastic soft tissue lesion that is frequently located in the deep subcutaneous region or in the fascia. The most common locations for nodular fasciitis are the volar aspect of the forearm, the lower extremity, and the chest and back. It typically manifests as a rapidly growing mass.
Most often nodular fasciitis occurs in patients between 20 and 40 years of age, but children also may be affected.
In most cases (~45%) it is localized to the upper extremity, particularly the volar aspect of the forearm. Other common sites are:
- trunk (20%)
- head and neck (18%)
- lower extremities (16%)
Symptoms of tenderness and pain are frequently described at presentation.
The pathogenesis of nodular fasciitis is poorly understood. Some describe it as a reactive lesion related to trauma, others have described chromosomal abnormalities that are suggestive of a neoplastic origin.
The lesions tend to be small (<4 cm). Three general subtypes of nodular fasciitis may be identified on the basis of the lesion location:
Most occurrences of nodular fasciitis are subcutaneous, fascia based, and circumscribed; these lesions may be amenable to biopsy or excision without any need for imaging evaluation.
Benign proliferation of fibroblasts and myofibroblasts, typically mistaken for a sarcomatous lesion because of its rapid growth, abundant spindle-shaped cells, and mitotic activity.
Sonography can show one or more well-defined isoechoic to hypoechoic nodules with a mildly increased vascular flow in the deep portion of the subcutaneous fat layer, adjacent to or in the fascia.
Nodular fasciitis may be categorized as myxoid, cellular, or fibrous. This histologic diversity likely accounts for the variable MR imaging appearance of the lesions:
- hypercellular lesions appear nearly isointense to that in skeletal muscle on T1WI and hyperintense to that in adipose tissue on T2WI
- highly collagenous lesions have hypointense signal on all sequences
- contrast enhancement is typically diffuse but may be peripheral
Treatment and prognosis
The imaging-based diagnosis should be verified with an excisional biopsy.
Treatment typically consists of marginal excision of the lesion(s). Several weeks of observation (after a diagnosis based on the results of percutaneous fine-needle biopsy) also have been advocated given the self-limited course of the disease.
Spontaneous regression and involution of lesions in response to steroid injections have been reported ref required.
Imaging differential considerations include:
- 1. Jin W, Kim GY, Park SY et-al. The spectrum of vascularized superficial soft-tissue tumors on sonography with a histopathologic correlation: Part 2, malignant tumors and their look-alikes. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2010;195 (2): 446-53. doi:10.2214/AJR.09.3846 - Pubmed citation
- 2. Dinauer PA, Brixey CJ, Moncur JT et-al. Pathologic and MR imaging features of benign fibrous soft-tissue tumors in adults. Radiographics. 27 (1): 173-87. doi:10.1148/rg.271065065 - Pubmed citation
- 3. Vanhoenacker Filip M., Michiel Eyselbergs, Erik Hul, e.a. “Pseudotumoural soft tissue lesions of the hand and wrist: a pictorial review”. Insights into Imaging 2, no. 3 (2011): 319-333. . doi:10.1007/s13244-011-0076-5.
- 4. Kim ST, Kim HJ, Park SW et-al. Nodular fasciitis in the head and neck: CT and MR imaging findings. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2005;26 (10): 2617-23. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol (full text) - Pubmed citation