Lymph nodes & spleen, nonlymphoma

Spleen-vascular tumors

Littoral cell angioma

Editorial Board Member: Debra L. Zynger, M.D.
Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Genevieve M. Crane, M.D., Ph.D.
Patricia Tsang, M.D., M.B.A.

Last author update: 2 September 2022
Last staff update: 7 November 2023

Copyright: 2003-2024,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Littoral cell angioma spleen

Patricia Tsang, M.D., M.B.A.
Page views in 2023: 8,677
Page views in 2024 to date: 2,682
Cite this page: Tsang P. Littoral cell angioma. website. Accessed April 15th, 2024.
Definition / general
  • Rare, typically benign splenic vascular tumor
  • Originates from littoral cells lining splenic red pulp sinuses
Essential features
  • Strong association with diverse immunologic and neoplastic disorders
  • Presentation varies from asymptomatic and incidental to fever, pain and cytopenias related to hypersplenism
  • Dual endothelial and histiocytic differentiation of tumor cells, similar to normal splenic littoral cells
  • CD34 is characteristically absent while other endothelial cell antigens are expressed
  • Littoral cell angioma of the spleen
ICD coding
  • ICD-10: D73.89 - other diseases of spleen
  • Unique to the spleen
  • Immunodysregulation is postulated to explain the clinical association with various malignancies or immune / autoimmune disorders (Histopathology 2016;69:762)
  • Unknown etiology
Clinical features
Diagnostic criteria
  • Splenomegaly with nodules composed of benign tortuous vascular channels
  • Dual endothelial and histiocytic immunophenotype lacking CD34
  • Thrombocytopenia, anemia in subset of patients
Radiology description
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Ultrasound varies from heterogeneous echotexture without specific nodules to hyperechogenic, hypoechogenic or isoechogenic lesions
  • CT shows solitary or multiple hypoattenuating nodules (BMJ Case Rep 2015;2015:bcr2015212882)
  • MRI shows hypodense lesions on T1 and T2 weighted scans due to hemosiderin (Int J Clin Exp Pathol 2015;8:8516)
Radiology images

Contributed by Patricia Tsang, M.D., M.B.A. and Case #179

CT with contrast

CT scan

Prognostic factors
Case reports
  • Splenectomy
  • Management of any potential complications of asplenia (e.g., severe infection and thrombosis)
  • Clinical evaluation for any coexisting neoplastic or immune disorders (World J Gastroenterol 2015;21:6660)
Gross description
  • Solitary or multiple distinct splenic nodules (solitary to multiple ratio is ~0.3:1) (Front Oncol 2022;12:790332)
  • Minute to large nodules of variable consistency
  • Various colors (yellow / brown / red / black) depending on degree of necrosis, cyst formation, thrombi and fibrosis (Int J Clin Exp Pathol 2015;8:8516)
  • Spongy / cystic (J Cytol 2017;34:121)
  • Well demarcated but lacking a fibrous capsule
Gross images

Case #179

Cystic cut surface

Images hosted on other servers:

Multiple nodules

Microscopic (histologic) description
  • Proliferation of anastomosing, tortuous, blood filled vascular channels (Int J Clin Exp Pathol 2015;8:8516)
  • Irregular channel lumina, often with papillary projections and cystic spaces
  • Lined by tall endothelial cells with variable hemophagocytosis (BMJ Case Rep 2015;2015:bcr2015212882)
  • Sloughing of endothelial cells into vascular spaces
  • No sclerosis or cytologic atypia
Microscopic (histologic) images

Contributed by Patricia Tsang, M.D., M.B.A.

Tortuous vascular channels

Anastomosing vascular channels

Vascular channels appear papillary




Cytology description
  • 3 dimensional, bland appearing, epithelioid foamy cells with low N:C ratio (J Cytol 2017;34:121)
  • May contain intracytoplasmic hemosiderin pigment
Positive stains
Negative stains
Molecular / cytogenetics description
  • No specific molecular findings
Sample pathology report
  • Spleen, splenectomy:
    • Littoral cell angioma (see comment)
    • Comment: The nodule in the splenic red pulp is composed of tortuous blood vessels lined by plump endothelial cells that form papillary projections into the lumina. No overt cytologic atypia or mitoses are seen. The white pulp is histologically unremarkable.
    • Immunohistochemistry demonstrates dual endothelial and histiocytic differentiation of the vascular lining cells. The phenotypic profile is as follows: CD31+, factor VIII+, CD68+, lysozyme+, langerin+. Not expressed are CD34, CD117 and HHV8. The proliferative fraction based on Ki67 is low (about 15%).
    • The overall findings are characteristic of splenic littoral cell angioma, which is benign in most cases. However, this lesion may be seen in association with a variety of neoplastic and immune / autoimmune conditions. Clinical correlation and follow up are suggested.
Differential diagnosis
  • Angiosarcoma:
    • Atypical sarcomatous cells with hyperchromatic nuclei
    • Frequent tumor necrosis, high mitotic rate and poor demarcation
    • CD34+
  • Hamartoma:
    • Disorganized blood vessels with entrapped adipocytes
    • CD8+
  • Splenic littoral cell hemangioendothelioma:
    • Typically mild to moderate cytologic atypia
    • May have solid areas
    • Potentially malignant or metastasizing
  • Kaposi sarcoma:
    • Atypical spindle cells with HHV8 and CD34 positivity
    • HIV related
  • Hemangioma:
    • Usually asymptomatic, incidental finding
    • Single layer of bland endothelial cells with CD34 positivity
    • Lacks CD68 and other histiocytic markers
  • Hemangiopericytoma:
    • Oval to spindle cells surrounding staghorn blood vessels
    • CD34+, lysozyme-
    • Relatively high malignant potential
  • Lymphangioma:
    • Cystic, malformed lymphatic channels, often subcapsular
    • Attenuated endothelial lining
    • Lacks histiocytic markers and langerin
Board review style question #1

A 55 year old man presents with abdominal pain and multiple splenic nodules. The microscopic H&E image is shown above. The proliferative fraction is 20%. Which of the following immunostains is expected to be negative?

  1. CD31
  2. CD34
  3. CD68
  4. Factor VIII
Board review style answer #1
B. CD34. The photomicrograph shows anastomosing vascular channels in the spleen with sloughing of plump endothelial cells into the lumina, morphologically consistent with littoral cell angioma. The proliferative fraction is low. CD34 is characteristically negative in littoral cell angioma, while other vascular endothelial cell associated markers (CD31 and factor VIII) are positive. The histiocytic marker CD68 is also characteristically expressed.

Comment Here

Reference: Littoral cell angioma
Board review style question #2
Which of the following statements is true about littoral cell angioma of the spleen?

  1. Hypersplenism related anemia or thrombocytopenia is a well recognized manifestation
  2. It is pathogenetically linked to human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8)
  3. It originates from the white pulp vascular lining cells of the spleen
  4. Malignant transformation is common among middle aged and elderly patients
Board review style answer #2
A. Hypersplenism related anemia or thrombocytopenia is a well recognized manifestation. Hypersplenism in patients with littoral cell angioma can cause entrapment of RBCs and platelets in the spleen, leading to anemia and thrombocytopenia.

Comment Here

Reference: Littoral cell angioma
Back to top
Image 01 Image 02