Indian Journal of Dermatology
: 2015  |  Volume : 60  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 421-

Tuberous sclerosis complex: Diagnostic role of magnetic resonance imaging

Virendra N Sehgal1, Navjeeven Singh2, Sonal Sharma2, Jolly Rohatgi3, Rakesh Oberai4, Kingshuk Chatterjee5,  
1 Dermato Venereology (Skin/VD) Center, Sehgal Nursing Home, Panchwati, Delhi, India
2 Department of Pathology, University College of Medical Sciences and Associated Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Sahadra, Delhi, India
3 Department of Ophthalmology, University College of Medical Sciences and Associated Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Sahadra, Delhi, India
4 Department of Radiology, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute Paschim Vihar, New Delhi, India
5 Department of Dermatology, Bankura Sammilani Medical Collage, Bankura, West Bengal, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Virendra N Sehgal
Dermato Venerology (Skin/VD) Center, Sehgal Nursing Home, A/6 Panchwati, Delhi - 110 033


Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a well-known clinical entity, characterized by facial angio-fibroma, shagreen patch, and hypo-melanotic, and confetti-like skin lesions. An exquisite fresh case is being narrated, emphasizing its microscopic pathology. The role of magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, in particular, is highlighted to define the large variety of neurological abrasions for determining its future progression.

How to cite this article:
Sehgal VN, Singh N, Sharma S, Rohatgi J, Oberai R, Chatterjee K. Tuberous sclerosis complex: Diagnostic role of magnetic resonance imaging.Indian J Dermatol 2015;60:421-421

How to cite this URL:
Sehgal VN, Singh N, Sharma S, Rohatgi J, Oberai R, Chatterjee K. Tuberous sclerosis complex: Diagnostic role of magnetic resonance imaging. Indian J Dermatol [serial online] 2015 [cited 2021 Jan 25 ];60:421-421
Available from:

Full Text


Tuberous sclerosis is a genetic disorder, where cellular differentiation and proliferation result in hamartoma formation in the skin, brain, eye, kidney, and heart. [1],[2] The credit of its initial description, in the year 1862, goes to Von Recklinghausen, [3] while Désiré-Magloire Bourneville [4] coined the term sclerose tubereuse; the current name is its derivative. The clinical triad of epilepsy, low intelligence, and adenoma sebaceum, the epiloia, was invented by Sherlock. [5] The term tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) [1] is now widely acclaimed, emphasizing the variegated nature of its attribute.

 Case Report

An 11-year-old girl of class 6 th standard, of average IQ, presented with insidiously evolving reddish-brown, small hard bumps occupying the mid-face since early childhood. She also had couple of small white spots over the trunk. There was neither history of neurological (seizures), visual deficit nor burning on exposure to sunlight. She was born by normal delivery from non-consanguineous parents. Her younger brother is normal. No history indicative of the disease could be elicited either in maternal or fraternal family members. Skin surface examination of the face was marked by the presence of reddish-brown papules of 2-4 mm size (millet seed). These papules were numerous, occupied the nose, nasolabial folds and cheeks and were bilateral and symmetrical [Figure 1]a]. In addition, a plaque of 3 to 4 cm size was recognized in the lumbo-sacral region. It had uneven surface, resembling an "orange peel," the shagreen patch [Figure 1]b]. Hypomelanotic, ivory-white macule (s) of 5 to 10 mm size was located. The macules were 2 in number and were well defined with irregular margins [Figure 1]c]. The mucous membrane of the oral cavity and nails were normal. Neurological examination too was normal. Indirect ophthalmoscopic and slit-lamp examinations of the eye were normal. Complete hemogram, including total and differential leukocyte count, and cardiac- and kidney functions tests were normal. Ultrasonography of the abdomen was normal too. Kidneys and liver, in particular, did not reveal any focal lesion. The radiograph of the chest and electrocardiogram (ECG) were normal.{Figure 1}


Hematoxylin-eosin (H and E)-stained sections prepared from the face, revealed a normal looking epidermis, small pilo-sebaceous units, and an evidence of increased dermal collagen [Figure 2]a]. At higher magnification, "onion-peel"- like concentric bands of collagen surrounding abortive hair follicles [Figure 2]b] were seen. Concentric bands of fibrosis were also seen around some of the eccrine ducts [Figure 2]c], appearing to constrict their lumina. Likewise, the small sebaceous glands in the dermis were surrounded by dense collagen bands.{Figure 2}

The sections from the plaque on the back showed a dome-shaped elevation of the epidermis by dense fibrous tissue, a paucity of dermal appendages, and vasculature. Concentric bands of collagen, surrounding small, congested blood vessels were also seen in the dermis.

Magnetic resonance imaging

MRI of the brain performed on a 1.5 TMR (Signa HDxt, GE Medical Systems, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA), using turbo spin-echo (TSE) T1-weighted, T2-weighted and fluid-attenuated inversion recovery (FLAIR) sequences in axial planes, showed sub-ependymal nodules (SENs) along the wall of both the lateral ventricles, appearing hyper-intense on T1-and T2-weighted MRI [Figure 3]a and b], small focal lesions in the left frontal lobe cortex [Figure 4]a and b] and in left cerebellum [Figure 5]a and b] appearing hyper-intense on T2-weighted, and FLAIR and iso-intense to hypo-intense on T1-weighted images [Figure 5]a and b]. In addition, band like hyper-intense bilateral lesions were seen in deep white matter on FLAIR images. An extra-axial cystic lesion was also seen in the left temporal region, appearing hypo-intense on FLAIR and hyper-intense on T2-weighted images. Both the orbits were unremarkable.{Figure 3}{Figure 4}{Figure 5}

The ultrasound of abdomen including kidneys and liver was normal.


It is a rare entity and has sparingly been reported. [6],[7] Nonetheless, it continues to be in reckoning, ever since its inception, because of its overwhelming clinical ramifications. Accordingly, a consensus conference was sponsored by the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance and the National Institute of Health, the deliberations of which took cognizance of its wide ranging clinical manifestations to evolve criteria for its diagnosis [Table 1]. [8]{Table 1}

The present case had facial angio-fibroma, shagreen patch, and hypo-melanotic, confetti-like [9],[10] skin lesions, a few of its salient cutaneous manifestations, adequate to consider the diagnosis of TSC, conforming to the major features (vide supra).

The exquisite exposition of microscopic pathology [1],[11] was fascinating and is required to be taken cognizance of as an essential adjunct for confirming the clinical diagnosis. Virtually, it should form a part component of already enlisted major and/or minor features of TSC. It is, therefore, recommended to undertake a biopsy of accessible cutaneous lesions before proceeding to perform MRI. The narrative account of TSC was accomplished in the present case by performing MRI of the brain to identify the presence of lesions involving the cerebral cortex. Multiple high-signal MRI lesions are characteristic of TSC [12] corresponding to the hamartomas and gliotic area seen pathologically. Furthermore, MRI may be useful in predicting the eventual clinical severity of younger children with newly diagnosed TSC.

Cortical tubers, SENs and white matter lesions are commonly encountered in TSC. Its less common manifestations include cerebellar atrophy, dys-genesis of corpus callosum, Chiari malformation, arachnoid cyst, and infarctions due to occlusive vascular disorders. MRI is the most sensitive modality for their detection. [13],[14] Cortical tubers, SENs, white matter lesions and left temporal arachnoid cysts were seen in the present case. The cortical tubers had increased signal intensity on T2- and decreased signal intensity on T1-weighted sequence. On MRI, SENs are iso-intense/hyper-intense on T2-weighted images and hyper-intense on T1-weighted images, and may also demonstrate central low T2 signal with surrounding hyper-intense rim. SENs typically measure less than 1 cm, but may grow over time, giving rise to subependymal giant cell astrocytomas (SEGAs), which are commonly located at the foramen of Monro and can cause acute obstructive hydrocephalus. They are of heterogeneous appearance on MRI, contain calcification and show intense inhomogeneous enhancement. Superficial white matter abnormalities and radial white matter bands, which are lines of arrested neuronal migration, appear as radiating bright lines on T2-weighted and FLAIR images. White matter cystic lesions may also occur. Hence, MRI plays an important role in the correct diagnosis of TSC, especially in asymptomatic patients to determine the presence and extent of organ involvement. Follow-up MRI must be done for evolution of lesions and early detection of associated complications. Thus, it may play a crucial role in its management. Moreover, it is worthwhile to highlight the limitations of conventional MRI to match micro-structural changes, for which diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and related noninvasive techniques [15] are being practiced to define the well-known pathological changes. In addition, DTI has a putative role in identifying potential disease biomarkers, as DTI abnormalities of the white matter are associated with neurocognitive morbidity including autism. If indeed DTI changes parallel phenol-typical changes related to the investigational treatment of epilepsy, cognition and behavior with mTOR inhibitors, it will facilitate future clinical trials.


Although tuberous sclerosis complex is a well-known genetic disorder, its reporting is sporadic. Slowly evolving angio-fibroma affecting the mid face, shagreen patch, and hypo-melanotic, confetti-like lesions should arouse suspicion. Nevertheless, its diagnosis needs to be supplemented by histopathology. Magnetic resonance imaging is imperative to define its neurological undertones, in addition to slit-lamp examination of the eye.

Noninvasive MRI measures of microstructural may be handy.


1Kacerovska D, Kerl K, Michal M, Filipova H, Vrtel R, Vanecek T, et al. Giant angiofibromas in tuberous sclerosis complex: A possible role for localized lymphedema in their pathogenesis. J Am Acad Dermatol 2012;67:1319-26.
2Schwartz RA, Fernández G, Kotuska K, Jówiak S. Tuberous sclerosis complex: Advances in diagnosis, genetics, and management. J Am Acad Dermatol 2007;57:189-202.
3von Recklinghausen F. Ein Herz von einem Neugeborene welches mehrere theils nach aussen, theils nach den Hohlen promimirende Tumoren (Myomen) trug. Monatschr Geburtsheilkd 1862;20:1-2.
4Bourneville DM. Contribution  a l'étude de l'idiotie: Sclèrose tubéreuse des circonvolutions cérébrale: Idiote et épilepsie hemiplegique. Arch Neurol 1880;1:81-91.
5Sherlock EB. The Feeble-Minded: A Guide to Study and Practice. London: MacMillan; 1911. p. 235-47.
6Sehgal VN, Sehgal N. Cutaneous manifestations of tuberous sclerosis. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 1969;35:198-9.
7Hake S. Cutaneous manifestations of tuberous sclerosis. Ochsner J 2010;10:200-4.
8Maria BL, Deidrick KM, Roach ES, Gutmann DH. Tuberous sclerosis complex: Pathogenesis, diagnosis, strategies, therapies, and future research directions. J Child Neurol 2004;19:632-42.
9Sehgal VN, Sharma S, Verma P, Srivastava G, Gupta M. Idiopathic Confetti-like leukoderma with unusual presentation. Am J Dermatopathol 2012;34:117-21.
10Sehgal VN, Srivastava G. Hereditary hypo/de-pigmented dermatoses: An overview. Int J Dermatol 2008;47:1041-50.
11Torrelo A, Hadj-Rabia S, Colmenero I, Piston R, Sybert VP, Hilari-Carbonell H, et al. Folliculocystic and collagen hamartoma of tuberous sclerosis complex. J Am Acad Dermatol 2012;66:617-21.
12Roach ES, Williams DP, Laster DW. Magnetic resonance imaging in tuberous sclerosis. Arch Neurol 1987;44:301-3.
13Radhakrishnan R, Verma S. Clinically relevant imaging in tuberous sclerosis. J Clin Imaging Sci 2011;1:39.
14Umeoka S, Koyama T, Miki Y, Akai M, Tsutsui K, Togashi K. Pictorial review of tuberous sclerosis in various organs. Radiographics 2008;28:e32.
15Peters JM, Taquet M, Prohl AK, Scherrer B, van Eeghen AM, Prabhu SP, et al. Diffusion tensor imaging and related techniques in tuberous sclerosis complex: Review and future directions. Future Neurol 2013;8:583-97.