Diagnostically Challenging Spindle Cell Lipomas: A Report of 34 “Low-Fat” and “Fat-Free” Variants

Department of Anatomic Pathology, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.
American Journal of Dermatopathology (Impact Factor: 1.39). 10/2007; 29(5):437-42. DOI: 10.1097/DAD.0b013e31813735df
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Spindle cell lipomas (SCL) classically occur as subcutaneous masses in the upper trunk/neck of older men and are composed of mature fat, CD34-positive spindled cells, ropey collagen, myxoid matrix, and blood vessels. A number of variants have been reported, including SCL with pseudoangiomatous change, composite SCL hibernoma, and composite SCL/pleomorphic lipoma. A review of over 300 consultation cases diagnosed as SCL revealed 34 cases in which fat was noted to be present in <5% of the tumor (n = 30) or absent (n = 4). These cases posed diagnostic difficulties because of the dearth of fat; we propose the terms "low-fat" and "fat-free" SCL for these variants. The tumors presented in older men (mean, 56 years; ratio of males to females, 11:1) and presented as small (mean, 2.0 cm) circumscribed dermal or subcutaneous masses of the head/neck (n = 18), back (n = 7), shoulder (n = 5), leg (n = 2), arm (n = 1), or unknown location (n = 1). In the majority, referring pathologists considered benign diagnoses, usually benign nerve sheath tumors, but in four cases low-grade sarcoma was considered. In only three cases was SCL considered. The tumors were composed of aggregates of CD34-positive, bland spindled cells arranged in characteristic parallel arrays, admixed with ropey collagen and myxoid matrix. Isolated clusters or single adipocytes were present in 30 cases; four were devoid of fat. CD34 was diffusely positive (10/11). A high index of suspicion based on clinical context and identification of other typical features of SCL are key features to the diagnosis of low-fat and fat-free SCL.

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    • "The histological differential diagnosis of SCL depends on features that predominate in each lesion. It usually includes benign tumors such as classic lipoma, schwannoma, neurofibroma [7], leiomyoma [1], and solitary fibrous tumor [16]. However, atypical lipomatous tumors (ALT) may also represent a differential diagnosis of SCL [7]. "
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    • "Although the histopathological features suggested the diagnosis of pleomorphic lipoma, it remained challenging because of the lack of a fat component. Recently, Sachdeva [11] and Billings [18] reported the ‘low-fat’ and ‘fat-free’ variants of pleomorphic lipoma and spindle cell lipoma, respectively. Meanwhile, they proposed that the key to the diagnosis of such variants lies in the nonlipogenic component rather than the lipogenic component. "
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