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Diagnosis and management of intraparenchymal rhabdomyosarcoma.

BACKGROUND: Intracranial rhabdomyosarcomas represent a rare condition, posing a diagnostic challenge to physicians. Brain intraparenchymal rhabdomyosarcomas are exceptionally rare with poorly understood pathogenesis.

METHODS: Here we report the first adult case of intraparenchymal rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) with brainstem and cranial nerve involvement. We conducted a literature search using Embase, MEDLINE, and PubMed for published cases of patients with rhabdomyosarcoma of the brain. The keywords used were 'rhabdomyosarcoma' combined with 'intraparenchymal', 'parenchymal', 'cerebral' or 'brain' for title/abstract. Included cases were adult patients (>18 years of age).

RESULTS: A 59-year-old man presents with multiple cranial nerve palsies. MRI revealed a solitary pontine lesion that was not responsive to steroids. No systemic lesions were identified with an extensive imaging workup. A wide range of serum and cerebrospinal fluid tests were non-diagnostic during a ten-month workup until, ultimately, the patient died as a result of aspiration pneumonia. At autopsy, pathological examination on whole-brain autopsy revealed RMS, centred in the left side of pons with extension to the left side of the midbrain and the right side of pons with multiple cranial nerve involvement. There are only 20 adult cases of primary intraparenchymal RMS reported in the literature. Our present case is the first reported adult RMS in this location, with novel molecular information, providing some insight into the pathogenesis of this rare diagnosis.

CONCLUSIONS: Intraparenchymal rhabdomyosarcoma without evidence of systemic primary disease is extremely rare, resulting in delayed diagnosis in some cases, particularly those not amenable to biopsy. The diagnostic challenge posed by this complementary case highlights the importance of maintaining a differential of neoplasm in the face of non-diagnostic investigations to the contrary.

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