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Christmas tree sign
  1. Department of Neurosciences, Charing Cross Hospital, London, England
  1. Mr A Th Casey, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen's Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK. Telephone 0044 171 837 3611.

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Back pain and sciatica in patients with neurofibromatosis may result from a multitude of pathological processes which include scoliosis, degenerative diseases of the spine, and spinal tumours. Neurofibroma, schwannoma, meningioma, and glioma can all occur. When specific tumours are responsible for the symptoms, surgical excision can offer effective treatment. Many patients, however, have widespread disease. We recently treated a patient with multiple neurofibromas which involved several nerve roots and the cauda equine (figure). The extensive distribution of the tumours produced an MRI picture resembling a Christmas tree. In patients with “the Christmas tree sign” the challenge is in the correct diagnosis of those tumours which produce the symptoms if surgery is to remain a realistic management option.

MRI demonstrating the Christmas tree sign.

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