Paragangliomas are neuroendocrine neoplasms, derived from paraganglia of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. They are most commonly identified in the head and neck, being most frequent in the carotid body, followed by jugulotympanic paraganglia, vagal nerve and ganglion nodosum, as well as laryngeal paraganglia. Abdominal sites include the well-known urinary bladder tumors that originate in the Organ of Zuckerkandl. However, other unusual sites of origin include peri-adrenal, para-aortic, inter-aortocaval, and paracaval retroperitoneal sites, as well as tumors in organs where they may not be expected in the differential diagnosis of neuroendocrine neoplasms, such as thyroid, parathyroid, pituitary, gut, pancreas, liver, mesentery, lung, heart and mediastinum. The distinction of these lesions from epithelial neuroendocrine neoplasms is critical for several reasons. Firstly, the determination of clinical and biochemical features is different from that used for epithelial neuroendocrine tumors. Secondly, the genetic implications are different, since paragangliomas/pheochromocytomas have the highest rate of germline susceptibility at almost 40%. Finally, the characterization of metastatic disease is unique in these highly syndromic lesions. In this review, we summarize updated concepts by outlining the spectrum of anatomic locations of paragangliomas, the importance of morphology in establishing the correct diagnosis, the clinical implications for management, and the impact of genetics on the distinction between multifocal primary tumors compared with malignant disease.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited