Cytologic features of the normal pineal gland on squash preparations

Academic Article


  • As primary pineal lesions are extremely rare, many surgical pathologists are unfamiliar with normal pineal cytologic features. We describe cytologic features of the normal pineal gland in patients of varying ages and identify common diagnostic pitfalls. We performed a retrospective review of pineal gland biopsies performed at our institution, where approximately 30,000 surgical specimens are accessioned yearly, for the last 23 years. Only two pineal gland biopsies were found. Although both cases were initially diagnosed as low-grade gliomas on frozen section, the final diagnosis was benign pineal tissue based on light microscopy and immunohistochemistry results. Additionally, we performed squash preparations of five normal pineal gland autopsy specimens with Papanicolaou and Diff-QuikVR (Dade Behring, Newark, DE) stains. Infant preparations were highly cellular smears composed of numerous, uniform, single cells with indistinct cytoplasm, small round-to-oval nuclei, fine chromatin, and absent nucleoli and calcifications. The vague microfollicular pattern mimicked a pineocytoma and the fine fibrillary background mimicked a glial neoplasm. Young adult smears were similar; however, microcalcifications were present with fewer background single cells. Older patients had much less cellular smears composed of small clusters of cells with fusiform-to-spindle nuclei, a fine chromatin pattern, and indistinct cytoplasmic borders. There were fewer background single cells and more microcalcifications. The cytologic features of the native pineal gland vary with age. Normal pineal tissue can be confused with a pineocytoma or low-grade glioma. Familiarity with normal pineal gland cytological features will help to avoid a potential misdiagnosis.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Murro D; Alsadi A; Nag S; Arvanitis L; Gattuso P
  • Start Page

  • 939
  • End Page

  • 943
  • Volume

  • 42
  • Issue

  • 11