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Oncologic Accuracy of Image-guided Percutaneous Core-Needle Biopsy of Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumors at a High-volume Sarcoma Center

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Peripheral nerve sheath tumors (PNSTs) are clinically heterogenous, comprising benign (BPNST) and malignant (MPNST) variants. BPNSTs can be managed with nerve-sparing excision or observation. MPNSTs require radical resection and multidisciplinary oncologic management (1, 15). Image-guided core-needle biopsy (IGCNBx) is the well-established standard to obtain preoperative tissue diagnosis of soft tissue tumors. However, there has been resistance to performing IGCNBx of PNSTs because of the presumed risk of nerve injury and unknown accuracy in determining malignancy. We sought to define the accuracy and safety of IGCNBx in PNSTs.

Materials and methods

All patients that underwent both IGCNBx and surgical resection of a PNST at our institution between 2002 and 2016 were analyzed. The accuracy of IGCNBx in determining malignancy was calculated, including subgroup analyses by histologic subtype and neurofibromatosis 1 status. Complication data were collected and analyzed.


Among the 78 PNSTs with IGCNBx and postresection surgical pathology, 76% (n=59) had BPNST and 24% (n=19) had MPNST on postresection surgical pathology. IGCNBx accurately determined malignancy in 94% of cases. IGCNBx demonstrating schwannoma or MPNST were 100% accurate in determining malignancy. IGCNBx demonstrating neurofibroma or indeterminate results were 33% and 57% malignant on postresection surgical pathology, respectively. There were no long-term complications, including sensory or motor deficits, from IGCNBx.


Percutaneous IGCNBx demonstrates 94% accuracy in differentiating benign from malignant PNSTs. IGCNBx demonstrating neurofibroma or indeterminate pathology should be interpreted with caution because of risk of malignant reclassification on surgical pathology. Our results reaffirm the safety of IGCNBx, as no patients experienced long-term complications.

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