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Atypical clinical presentation and long-term survival in a patient with optic nerve medulloepithelioma: a case report

Natalia Pastora-Salvador*, José Abelairas-Gómez, Jesús Peralta-Calvo, Eugenia García-Fernández, Carmen Morales-Bastos, Mónica Asencio-Durán and Fernando Carceller-Benito

Author Affiliations

University Hospital La Paz, Paseo de la Castellana 261, 28046 Madrid, Spain

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Journal of Medical Case Reports 2012, 6:123  doi:10.1186/1752-1947-6-123

Published: 9 May 2012



Medulloepithelioma is a rare congenital tumor of the primitive medullary neuroepithelium. A significant proportion of patients with medulloepithelioma arising from the optic nerve die from intracranial spread or cerebral metastasis. Because it has no known distinct clinical features and because of its low frequency, this tumor presents within the first two to six years of life and is usually misdiagnosed clinically as a different type of optic nerve tumor. Here, we describe a new and atypical case of medulloepithelioma of the optic nerve in a 12-year-old boy. To the best of our knowledge, he is the oldest reported patient to present with this disease and, now as an adult, has the longest documented period of disease-free survival.

Case presentation

A 12-year-old Caucasian boy with headache and unilateral amaurosis was referred for a presumed optic nerve glioma to our hospital. A computed tomography scan showed optic nerve enlargement, and fundoscopy showed a whitish mass at the optic disc. Our patient had been followed at his local hospital for four years for an 'optic disc cyst' with no change or progression. He experienced mild progressive visual impairment during that period. He was admitted for resection, and a histopathological analysis revealed a medulloepithelioma of the optic nerve. Supplemental orbital radiotherapy was performed. He remained disease-free for 25 years.


Medulloepithelioma of the optic nerve can clinically mimic more common pediatric tumors, such as optic glioma, meningioma, or retinoblastoma. Thus, medulloepithelioma should be included in the differential diagnoses of pediatric optic nerve lesions. Fundoscopy in these patients may provide relevant information for diagnosis. Anterior optic nerve medulloepitheliomas may behave differently from and have a better prognosis than medulloepitheliomas that have a more posterior location. Our case report illustrates that long-term survival can be achieved in patients with this malignant tumor.