Virchows Archiv

, Volume 473, Issue 3, pp 351–360 | Cite as

Misses and near misses in diagnosing nodular fasciitis and morphologically related reactive myofibroblastic proliferations: experience of a referral center with emphasis on frequency of USP6 gene rearrangements

  • Ramona Erber
  • Abbas Agaimy
Original Article


Although harmless, reactive and benign neoplastic myo-/fibroblastic proliferations represent a diagnostic challenge in routine surgical pathology practice as reflected by their frequency among consultation cases. In addition to resembling each other, the prototypical nodular fasciitis (NF) and NF-like lesions can be mistaken for low-grade or aggressive sarcomas. USP6 translocation was reported recently as the molecular driver and potential diagnostic marker of NF. We reviewed 71 lesions with a diagnosis of NF (n = 48) or NF-like myofibroblastic proliferations (n = 23) and screened them for USP6 translocation by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Only one third of NFs were correctly diagnosed by submitting pathologists while one third was initially judged as malignant. NF was mentioned in the differential diagnosis in only half of the cases. A high Ki67/mitotic index, misleading immunohistochemistry (false-positive h-caldesmon), and unusual sites/circumscription were main causes behind overdiagnosis as malignant. FISH analysis revealed USP6 translocation in 74.4% of NF cases. None of the reactive/reparative myofibroblastic proliferations showed USP6 translocation. NF is still significantly misdiagnosed by general surgical pathologists, with a higher tendency toward overdiagnosis of malignancy. Inclusion of NF in the differential diagnosis of any fibromyxoid soft tissue lesion and awareness of its diverse morphology are mandatory to avoid misdiagnoses with the risk of disastrous overtreatment. In the appropriate clinicopathological context, USP6 gene translocation is a valuable adjunct for diagnosis of NF, particularly in limited biopsies. Absence of the USP6 gene translocation in NF-like reparative pseudosarcomatous myofibroblastic proliferations underlines their reactive nature and distinguishes them from NF which is currently considered a benign neoplasm with a self-limiting “transient” growth phase.


Myxofibrosarcoma USP6 translocation Nodular fasciitis Myositis ossificans Heterotopic ossification Sarcoma Proliferative fasciitis Myofibroblastic sarcoma Fibroma of tendon sheath 



We thank our technicians Susanne Blank and Natascha Leicht as well as Corinna Eisele for technical support.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this retrospective data analysis involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional review board, which did not require informed consent. Approval of the local academic ethics committee of the University of Erlangen was obtained (ref. number 28_18Bc).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PathologyFriedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU)ErlangenGermany

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