Cytomorphologic characteristics in serous cavity fluids


  • Edward G. Weir M.D.,

    1. Department of Pathology, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland
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  • Syed Z. Ali M.D.

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Pathology, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland
    • Department of Pathology, Division of Cytopathology, PATH 406, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, 600 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21287
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Hepatoblastoma (HBL) represents the most common primary hepatic tumor in children. Although the cytologic features of this tumor have been amply elucidated on fine-needle aspiration, exfoliative cytomorphologic characteristics have not been reported. The authors reviewed the cytopathologic features of six serous cavity fluids (SCF) from four patients with histologically proven HBL.


Five of the specimens evaluated were peritoneal fluids, and one specimen was pleural fluid from a patient with suspected pulmonary metastasis. Slides were prepared by cytocentrifugation and stained with Diff-Quik and Papanicolaou stains. The cytomorphologic features of each specimen were characterized, subclassified, and correlated histopathologically.


All specimens showed hypercellular smears in a relatively clean background. Mixed embryonal and fetal subtypes of HBL disclosed three-dimensional clusters of neoplastic cells that formed straight or branched cords and acinus-like structures. The cells were moderately pleomorphic and had high nuclear-to-cytoplasmic (N/C) ratios. Occasional cells had eccentrically placed nuclei and vacuolated cytoplasm. Numerous mitotic figures were present. Rare intranuclear inclusions were noted. The anaplastic (small cell) subtype of HBL showed tight clusters of small, round, primitive cells with hyperchromatic nuclei, high N/C ratios, and prominent nuclear molding. In addition, there were numerous single cells with naked nuclei, often in an Indian-file configuration. Bile pigment, osteoid, and other mesenchymal components were absent in all specimens.


The cytomorphologic features of HBL in SCF are quite characteristic. Although the differential diagnosis includes other childhood small, round, blue cell tumors and hepatocellular carcinoma, the above findings in the appropriate clinical-radiologic setting warrant a diagnosis of HBL. Cancer (Cancer Cytopathol) 2002;96:267–74. © 2002 American Cancer Society.