Secondary CNS lymphoma

A.Prof Frank Gaillard et al.

Secondary CNS lymphoma (SCNSL) refers to central nervous system spread of a lymphoma that originated elsewhere (in contrast to Primary CNS lymphoma). It is typically a non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and may be an isolated recurrence or may be part of a systemic disease at the time of presentation 2. Unlike primary CNS lymphoma it more commonly involves the leptomeninges and is uncommonly detectable on CT/MR, with malignant cells found on CSF aspiration. 

Leptomeningeal lymphoma accounts for two thirds of cases of secondary CNS lymphomas, the remaining third presenting like primary CNS lymphomas (parenchymal disease).

The histologic grade of the primary lymphoma influences the risk of developing SCNSL: if the primary lymphoma is classified as indolent, aggressive, or highly aggressive, there is a 3%, 9%, and 27% risk, respectively, of developing SCNSL 2

SCNSL can manifest with a new-onset headache, cranial nerves palsies (especially the III, IV, VI, and VII), changes in mental status, and even coma and seizures 2

SCNSL can be divided in those with leptomeningeal involvement, the most common form, those with a parenchymal involvement, or as a combination of the two 2

Risk factors for a SCNSL are 2:  

  • the variant of primary lymphoma
  • involvement of more than one extranodal site
  • serum lactate dehydrogenase level greater than three times the normal limit
  • advanced stage of the systemic disease
  • high international prognostic index

Contrast enhanced MRI is the modality of choice. Imaging features of leptomeningeal secondary CNS lymphoma include leptomeningeal, dural, subependymal and cranial nerve enhancement. Communicating hydrocephalus may be present.

Parenchymal SCNSL appears quite similar to primary CNS lymphoma, however it can be accompanied by leptomeningeal and subependymal enhancement.

Share article

Article information

rID: 6548
Tag: stub, refs, cases
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Secondary CNS lymphoma
  • Secondary CNS lymphoma (SCNSL)

Support Radiopaedia and see fewer ads

Cases and figures

  • Drag
    Case 1
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 2
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 3
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 4
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Updating… Please wait.

    Alert accept

    Error Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

    Alert accept Thank you for updating your details.