An endobronchial obstructing neoformation was found in a 58-year-old man. The histology and immunohistochemical profile oriented the authors towards a diagnosis of paraganglioma, sclerosing variant. This very difficult diagnosis, especially in a pulmonary localization, may lead to erroneous conclusions both in terms of histogenetic interpretation and that of its biological behavior. The pulmonary localization of the paraganglioma is very rare and even more rare the sclerosing variant, recently reported. Differential diagnosis and literature are discussed.


Paraganglioma (PG) is the extra adrenal analogue of pheochromocytoma of which it repeats the structure, immunocytochemical profile and biological behavior. It is a rare neoplasm with various localizations among which the pulmonary one is very rare. The case we observed, beyond the pulmonary site, presented the histomorphological features of the very rare sclerosing variant. It is a neoplasia of very difficult diagnosis prone to dangerous pitfalls. For all these reasons, we considered it worthy of reporting.

Case – In a man of 58 years, with ischemic heart disease, bearer of a pacemaker, to a radiological control with CT Scan, the presence of a neoformation vegeto infiltrating obstructing the anterior segmental bronchus of the upper lobe of the right lung was detected (Figs. 1a,b). Bronchoscopic examination revealed the presence of a large base polypoid neoformation covered by a glossy mucosa, brownish in color almost entirely occupying the bronchial lumen (Fig. 2a). A large bioptic resection was performed on the neoformation.

After biopsy, (July 2019) and histopathologic diagnosis, the patient no longer scheduled for subsequent treatment and follow-up.

Material and methods

The biopsy specimen was fixed in formalin and embedded in paraffin. The sections were stained with hematoxylin-eosin, Masson’s trichrome, and Silver-impregnation according to Gomori. For immunohistochemistry a panel of antibodies was used (Tab. I).


The material under examination consisted of a grossly polypoid fragment with a maximum diameter of 4 mm (Fig. 2b). The mass was totally ulcerated. Adjacent were a few minute frustule of bronchial mucosa. The tissue was mainly made up of a proliferation of medium-sized globose elements, voluminous roundish hyperchromatic nucleus, mainly arranged in chains (Figs. 2c,d) or joined to form thin branched cords compressed and separated by a dense and abundant fibrous matrix (Figs. 3a,b). In the periphery, where the fibrous tissue was more lax and less abundant, elements aggregated into nodular formations type Zell Ballen (Figs. 3c,d). Silver stainig according to Gomori allows recognition, although distorted, the characteristic alveolar pattern of the PG (Figs. 4a), while Masson’s trichrome confirmed the intense desmoplasia (Figs. 4b). Mitotic activity was practically absent.

The results of the immunohistochemical investigation are shown in Table II.

On the basis of morphological data and the results of immunohistochemical investigation, after having examined a vast differential diagnosis panel,a diagnosis of primary broncho-pulmonary paraganglioma, sclerosing variant was favored.


The adrenal medulla and the extra adrenal paraganglia, having the same embryological origin, the same histological structure and the same function constitute the adrenal sympathetic neuroendocrine system. The extra adrenal paraganila are structures distributed along the paraortico-praventebral axis, in parallel with the distribution of the sympathetic nervous system. They produce neurotransmitters (epinephrine and norepinephrine) that activate the interneuronal synapses of the sympathetic system. The paraganglias with respect to the site are divided into branchiomeric,intravagal, aortosympatetic and visceral. The common origin from the Neural crest with the cells of the diffuse neuroendocrine system explains the common dyeing, histochemical, immunohistochemical and ultrastructural affinity, making it, especially in lung localizations, very difficult for diagnostic differentiation 1.

Pulmonary localization of PG is among the rarest. In a collection of 152 cases, the pulmonary site appears only in 3 (2%) 2. A review of the literature in 1995 reported 25 cases up to that date 3. Subsequent to that time another 13 have been reported ln the literature in the English language 3-14.

The differential diagnosis of this lesion in the lung with more frequent carcinoid tumors is not always easy and lies in subtle morphological differences and immunophenotypic expressiveness. So much so that according to some AA, while not excluding the possibility of their existence in such a location, it is very difficult to determine their actual frequency given the difficulty differential diagnosis with carcinoid 1. On the morphological level differential diagnosis can be fairly easy in the case of lesions in the classical form. It becomes very difficult if not impossible in the atypical or undifferentiated forms or in the case of not uncommon variants.

On the basis of immunophenotypic differentiation it is a little less arduous as can be seen from Table III.

Although previous cases of PG with marked sclerosis phenomena have been reported, a specific sclerosing variant was defined in 2006 15. In that publication, the result of a multcentric study conducted at four large North American institutions, 16 cases were collected and described. Subsequent to this first publication, five other individual cases followed, one of which was bronchopulmonary 16-20.

The morphological patterns presented in these publications are completely superimposable to the one observed to us. Our differential diagnostic procedure followed the same scheme proposed in these articles. In view of the lack of the classic PG structure, the infiltrative aspect of the lesion, one can consider the possibility of a primitive or secondary pulmonary malignancy, and among these those with desmoplasty. Secondly, the neuroendocrine expression introduces a discussion between the possible nuroendocrine lesions of the lung. The morphological picture as a whole does not integrate the typical aspects of any of the nuroendocrine neoplasms of the lung. In addition, in the peripheral areas, less affected by desmoplasia, the characteristic Zell Ballen of the PG are easily recognizable (Figs. 3c-d). In addition, the silver stainig highlights, albeit distorted, the characteristic alveolar pattern (Fig. 4a).

On the imunohistochemical level, despite the clearly positive neurendocrine markers (Figs. 4c,d, 5a,b), the negativity for cytokeratins and TTF1 makes a neoplasm of the carcinoid family unlikely. Even if scattered, because of sclerosis, but still placed on the periphery of the cellular cords, positive S100 cells are present interpretable as sustentacolar (Fig. 5c). Vimentin has an arrangement similar to that of the argyrophilic fibers that surround the alveolar spaces. The low proliferation index and the absence of mitotic figures suggest that the lesion is low in aggressiveness. The incomplete removal, if not followed by a radicalizing intervention, could cause recurrence.

Figures and tables

Figure 1..

Figure 2..

Figure 3..

Figure 4..

Figure 5..

Table I..

Ab Dilutions
Vimentin Monoclonal 1:50
Cytokeratin MNF 116 Monoclonal 1:50
S100 Polyclonal 1:400
Chromogranin A Monoclonal 1:100
Synaptofisin Monoclonal 1.50
NSE Monoclonal 1:100
CD56 Monoclonal 1:50
TTF1 Monoclonal 1:100
Ki67 Monoclonal 1:75
CD34 Monoclonal 1:20
CD31 Monoclonal 1:20
p40 Monoclonal 1:100
SMACT Monoclonal 1:50
GFAP Polyclonal 1:200
PD-1 Monoclonal 1:50
CD117 Polyclonal 1:400
Immunohistochemical panel.

Table II..

Ab Vim Ck S100 Chromogr Synapto NSE CD56 TTF1 Ki67 CD34 CD31 P40 SMACT GFAP PD-1 CD117
+ * - + * + + + +/- - low - - - - - - -
Fig. 5d 5c 4c 4d 5a 5b
Immunohistochemistry results.

Table III..

Ab Parganglioma CARCINOID
CK . +
NSE + +
TTF1 - +
S100 + * -
PG vs carcinoid immunohistochemistry.