Von Hippel-Lindau (vHL) disease is characterized by the development of numerous benign and malignant tumors in different organs (at least 40 types 1) due to mutations in the VHL tumor suppressor gene on chromosome 3.
The disease is rare with an estimated prevalence of 1:35,000-50,000. Most patients are diagnosed with their first tumor in early adulthood (mean age at diagnosis of initial tumor is 26) 10.
Clinical presentation is varied, depending on the site of disease manifestation (see below). Most commonly these are either within the abdominal cavity or affect the central nervous system.
Patients may develop some or all of the various lesions which include:
renal lesions (>67% of patients 10)
renal cell carcinomas (RCCs)
- usually of the clear cell type 7 and frequently bilateral 10
- 70% lifetime risk 9
- RCCs present at an earlier age (mean = 39 years) in those with vHL 10
- can occur in up to 75% of patients 5
- often tend to be bilateral and multiple
- can be simple, complex or cystic RCC 10
- renal angiomyolipomas
- renal cell carcinomas (RCCs)
- pancreas (may be the earliest manifestation 3)
- epididymal cysts 10
- papillary cystadenoma of the epididymis: ~35% of patients (range 25-60%) 10
- broad ligament cystadenomas 10
CNS hemangioblastoma(s): occur in ~70% of patients (range 60-80%) 9,10
- cerebellar (~60%; range 44-72%)
- spinal cord (~30%; range 13-50%); most commonly in cervical and thoracic cord
- choroid plexus papilloma
Head and neck
- most common presenting feature, occurring in 45-60% of patients 9,10
- vision loss in 35-55% of patients 9
endolymphatic sac tumors (ELST)
- occurs in 10-15% of patients 10
- bilateral in 30% 10; considered pathognomonic for vHL 9
A mnemonic to help remember the features of vHL is: HIPPEL.
The disease carries an autosomal dominant inheritance with high expression and penetrance - ~80% of cases occur via this pathway with ~20% arising de novo 10. It results from an inactivation of VHL, a tumor suppressor gene located on chromosome 3p25.5. However, no mutation is identified in up to 30% of cases.
VHL can be classified according to clinical phenotypes, and the classification correlates with particular genotypes 10:
- type 1: low-risk for pheochromocytoma but higher-risk for CNS hemangioblastoma, RCC, pancreatic cyst, and pNET
- type 2A: high-risk for pheochromocytoma; low-risk for RCC
- type 2B: high-risk for pheochromocytoma and RCC
- type 2C: high-risk for pheochromocytoma only
Please refer to articles on individual lesions for specific imaging characteristics.
Treatment and prognosis
Most lesions from vHL are treatable and surveillance is recommended with various regional guidelines 10. Some experts advocate routine screening starting in adolescence. Prognosis is poor, with a median survival of ~50 years, with the most common cause of death being RCC and cerebellar hemangioblastomas 1.
History and etymology
Eugen von Hippel (1867-1939) was a German ophthalmologist who had described a rare disorder of the retina in 1904 and seven years later reported the basis of this disease, named as "angiomatosis of the retina".
Arvid Vilhelm Lindau (1892-1958) was a Swedish pathologist and bacteriologist who described the association between angiomatosis of the retina and hemangioblastomas of the cerebellum and other parts of the CNS and other visceral components of a disease, calling it "angiomatosis of the central nervous system".
In 1964 the disease was renamed Von Hippel-Lindau disease.
- 1. Leung RS, Biswas SV, Duncan M et-al. Imaging features of von Hippel-Lindau disease. Radiographics. 28 (1): 65-79. doi:10.1148/rg.281075052 - Pubmed citation
- 2. Marcos HB, Libutti SK, Alexander HR et-al. Neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas in von Hippel-Lindau disease: spectrum of appearances at CT and MR imaging with histopathologic comparison. Radiology. 2002;225 (3): 751-8. doi:10.1148/radiol.2253011297 - Pubmed citation
- 3. Hough DM, Stephens DH, Johnson CD et-al. Pancreatic lesions in von Hippel-Lindau disease: prevalence, clinical significance, and CT findings. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1994;162 (5): 1091-4. AJR Am J Roentgenol (abstract) - Pubmed citation
- 4. Courcoutsakis NA, Prassopoulos PK, Patronas NJ. Aggressive leptomeningeal hemangioblastomatosis of the central nervous system in a patient with von Hippel-Lindau disease. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2009;30 (4): 758-60. doi:10.3174/ajnr.A1360 - Pubmed citation
- 5. Taouli B, Ghouadni M, Corréas JM et-al. Spectrum of abdominal imaging findings in von Hippel-Lindau disease. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2003;181 (4): 1049-54. AJR Am J Roentgenol (full text) - Pubmed citation
- 6. Choyke PL, Glenn GM, Walther MM et-al. von Hippel-Lindau disease: genetic, clinical, and imaging features. Radiology. 1995;194 (3): 629-42. Radiology (abstract) - Pubmed citation
- 7. Bodmer D, Van den hurk W, Van groningen JJ et-al. Understanding familial and non-familial renal cell cancer. Hum. Mol. Genet. 2002;11 (20): 2489-98. doi:10.1093/hmg/11.20.2489 - Pubmed citation
- 8. Gaal J, van Nederveen FH, Erlic Z et-al. Parasympathetic paragangliomas are part of the Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 2009;94 (11): 4367-71. doi:10.1210/jc.2009-1479 - Pubmed citation
- 9. Maher ER, Neumann HP, Richard S. von Hippel-Lindau disease: a clinical and scientific review. Eur. J. Hum. Genet.19 (6): 617-23. doi:doi:10.1038/ejhg.2010.175 - Free text at pubmed - Pubmed citation
- 10. Ganeshan D, Menias CO, Pickhardt PJ, Sandrasegaran K, Lubner MG, Ramalingam P, Bhalla S. Tumors in von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome: From Head to Toe-Comprehensive State-of-the-Art Review. (2018) Radiographics : a review publication of the Radiological Society of North America, Inc. 38 (3): 849-866. doi:10.1148/rg.2018170156 - Pubmed
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