Vertebral metastases

Case contributed by Frank Gaillard
Diagnosis certain


Neck pain

Patient Data

Age: 80 years

C5 and C6 vertebral body edema and enhancement are associated with mild restricted diffusion and a small focus of enhancement in the intervening intervertebral disc on the left. Left anterior epidural soft tissue thickening and enhancement extends into the neural foramen and prevertebral space, associated with displacement of the cord posteriorly, but without associated cord indentation. No discrete fluid collection identified. The cord is normal in signal in caliber, with no enhancement or abnormal signal identified.


The differential is between discitis/osteomyelitis, associated with a left anterior epidural, foraminal and prevertebral phlegmon or a metastatic deposit. 


There is a multi-lobulated mass within the right upper lobe with adjacent further smaller satellite nodules. No other pulmonary nodules or mass lesions are seen given the limitation of 5 mm slices. There are no pleural or pericardial effusions. There are no enlarged mediastinal, hilar or axillary lymph nodes. The coronary arteries are heavily calcified. 

Case Discussion

The patient went on to have a cervical decompression.


Sections show sheets of tumor cells containing pale eosinophilic cytoplasm, oval hyperchromatic nuclei and prominent nucleoli. Focal tumor necrosis is present. Frequent mitoses are observed.

Immunohistochemical results show tumor cells stain: POSITIVE: CKAE1/3, CK7, TTF1. NEGATIVE: CAM5.2, CK20, p40, CD68, S100, Tyrosinase, CD1a, CD79a, CD138, PSA, Thyroglobulin, Calcitonin. The Ki67 proliferation index is approximately 70%.

FINAL DIAGNOSIS: Cervical epidural mass: poorly differentiated carcinoma, most consistent with lung primary.


It is not always trivial to distinguish metastatic disease from infection. In this instance, involvement of two adjacent vertebrae with involvement of the lateral disc does raise the possibility of infection. The CT scan of the chest was obtained after cervical decompression. 

How to use cases

You can use Radiopaedia cases in a variety of ways to help you learn and teach.

Creating your own cases is easy.

Updating… Please wait.

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

 Thank you for updating your details.