Some patients ultimately diagnosed with primary CNS lymphoma (PCNSL) have transient symptomatic contrast enhancing lesions. These "sentinel lesions" of PCNSL recede spontaneously or with corticosteroid treatment and present an important diagnostic dilemma because they show variable, but non-diagnostic histopathological features. Four previously healthy, immunocompetent patients aged 49 to 58 years had contrast enhancing intraparenchymal brain lesions. Before biopsy, three of the four were treated with corticosteroids. Initial biopsies showed demyelination with axonal sparing in two, non-specific inflammation in one, and normal brain in one. Infiltrating lymphocytes predominantly expressed T cell markers with rare B cells. All four patients recovered within two to four weeks after the initial biopsy and imaging studies showed resolution of the lesions. The CSF was normal in three of the four patients tested; oligoclonal bands were absent in both of the two tested. After seven to 11 months, each patient developed new symptomatic lesions in a different region of the brain, biopsy of which showed a B cell PCNSL. The mechanism of spontaneous involution of sentinel lesions is not understood, but may represent host immunity against the tumour. Sentinel lesions of PCNSL should be considered in patients with contrast enhancing focal parenchymal lesions that show non-specific or demyelinative histopathological changes. Close clinical and radiographic follow up is essential if PCNSL is to be diagnosed early in such patients.
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