Langenbeck's Archives of Surgery

, Volume 397, Issue 2, pp 239–246

Malignant pheochromocytoma: new malignancy criteria

  • Pierre de Wailly
  • Luigi Oragano
  • Francois Radé
  • Anthony Beaulieu
  • Vincent Arnault
  • Pierre Levillain
  • Jean Louis Kraimps
Original Article



The pathological diagnosis of malignancy in pheochromocytomas remains a controversial issue. According to the WHO, malignancy is defined in the presence of metastasis. Multiparameter scoring systems such as PASS (Pheochromocytoma of Adrenal gland Scaled Score) have been used but remain controversial. The aim of this study was to search for new immunohistologic elements allowing determination of pheochromocytoma malignancy.


Among 53 patients operated for pheochromocytoma between 1993 and 2009, we selected pheochromocytomas with proven metastasis, seven cases in group 1 (G1) and paired two others groups: group 2 (G2), patients who had “benign” pheochromocytoma with PASS ≥4 and group 3 (G3), patients who had “benign” pheochromocytoma with PASS <4. We retrospectively analysed PASS criteria, size, weight, tumour necrosis, Ki-67 and pS100 staining.


The size and weight of the lesion were directly and significantly correlated to malignancy in all three groups: respectively 9.7 cm and 292.0 g (G1), 6.2 cm and 83.8 g (G2) and 3.8 cm and 37.1 g (G3) (p < 0.005 for both). Tumour necrosis (TN) was present in all G1 (p < 0.005) and respectively at 0% and 37.5% in G2 and G3. Ki-67 is directly correlated to presence of TN (p < 0.005) and malignancy (G1 14.1%, G2 1.8%, G3 2.6%; p < 0.001). All G1 had a Ki-67 index >4%, although one G3 presented an 11% Ki-67 index. There was an inverse statistically significant correlation between the three groups in staining using pS100 (p < 0.01).


Size and weight of the pheochromocytoma are directly related to PASS and malignancy. The presence of tumour necrosis, Ki-67 index >4% and pS100 absence impose a close histopathological evaluation and follow-up with regard to cases presenting a high risk of malignancy/recurrence.


Pheochromocytoma Malignant pheochromocytoma PASS Ki-67 index pS100 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pierre de Wailly
    • 1
  • Luigi Oragano
    • 1
  • Francois Radé
    • 1
  • Anthony Beaulieu
    • 1
  • Vincent Arnault
    • 1
  • Pierre Levillain
    • 2
  • Jean Louis Kraimps
    • 1
  1. 1.Service de Chirurgie Digestive et EndocrinienneCHU La MilétriePoitiersFrance
  2. 2.Service d’AnathomopathologieCHU La MilétriePoitiersFrance

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