Lymph nodes & spleen, nonlymphoid
Spleen-infectious / inflammatory disorders
Foamy macrophages

Topic Completed: 1 February 2017

Minor changes: 22 July 2020

Copyright: 2003-2020,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Foamy macrophages spleen

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Cite this page: Lynch D. Foamy macrophages. website. Accessed August 6th, 2020.
Definition / general
  • Increased foamy histiocytes / macrophages, typically in the red pulp
Essential features
  • Associated with a wide variety of conditions both benign and malignant
  • Conditions with high cell turnover may produce foamy histiocytes
  • Diagnosis typically requires clinicopathologic correlation
  • Ceroid histiocytosis - histiocytes filled with phospholipids; not specific to a single disease entity
Case reports
Microscopic (histologic) description
  • Red pulp expanded by histiocytes with abundant foamy cytoplasm
  • Histiocytes scattered without forming a discrete mass
  • May have basophilic cytoplasm from ingestion of platelets in idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)
  • Finely fibrillary cytoplasm suggests underlying storage disease
  • White pulp is normal in size
Microscopic (histologic) images

Contributed by David Lynch, M.D.
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Positive stains
Negative stains
Differential diagnosis
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