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Cytomorphologic features of metastatic urothelial carcinoma in serous effusions

By Cheng Cheng Huang, Anoja Attele and Claire W. Michael


Metastatic urothelial carcinoma (UC) to serous effusion (SE) is extremely rare and its cytomorphological features have only been described in case reports. In this study, we searched the pathology database at University of Michigan for SEs due to metastatic UC in the last 20 years. A total of 25 cases from 20 patients with clinically and pathologically confirmed metastatic UC in SEs were retrieved. The specimens consisted of 15 pleural, 8 peritoneal, and 2 pericardial effusions. Smears were reviewed and evaluated for the following features: cellularity, single cells, cell clusters or short cords, cell wrapping, “windows” between the cells, two‐tone cytoplasm, cytoplasmic vacuoles, signet ring cells, nuclear to cytoplasmic (N/C) ratio, nuclear hyperchromasia, irregular nuclear membrane, nuclear centricity, double or multiple nuclei, nucleoli, anaplastic cells and mitosis. Our results showed that UC manifested in SEs predominantly as a single cell population with or without clusters or short cords, and frequently exhibited the “cell wrapping” of two or more cells. Individual UC cell in SEs exhibited nuclear enlargement with increased N/C ratio, irregular nuclear membranes, hyperchromatic coarse chromatin and frequently prominent nucleoli. Double or multinucleated cells, cells with vacuolated cytoplasm or signet ring appearance were also frequently present. Our results demonstrated that while certain features could suggest the diagnosis of UC, the cytomorphological features are not specific and often overlap with those of reactive mesothelium, mesothelioma, metastatic adenocarcinoma, or squamous cell carcinoma in SEs. Accurate diagnosis of UC rests on the combination of clinical history, cytomorphologic features and appropriate immunohistochemical panel. Diagn. Cytopathol. 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc

Publisher: Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
Year: 2013
DOI identifier: 10.1002/dc.22896
OAI identifier:

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