Applied Evidence

Neurofibromatosis type 1: More than skin deep

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Hypertension is common and may contribute to premature death in patients with NF1. Up to 27% of patients will have significant cardiovascular anomalies, including pulmonary valve stenosis, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in patients with complete deletions of the NF1 gene, intracardiac neurofibromas, renal artery stenosis, coarctation of the aorta, and cerebral infarctions.12 Renal artery stenosis occurs in approximately 2% of the NF1 population, and the diagnosis should be considered in hypertensive children, young adults, pregnant women, older individuals with refractory hypertension, and those with an abdominal bruit.13

Psychological issues. The disfigurement caused by neurofibromas and the uncertainty of an unpredictable disease course can cause psychological manifestations for patients with NF1. Anxiety and depression are common. Not surprisingly, patients with more severe disease report more adverse psychological effects.

Orthopedic deformities. Spinal deformities are the most common skeletal manifestation of NF1, with an incidence estimated from 10% to 25% in various studies. Bone mineral density, as measured by age- and gender-adjusted Z-scores, is significantly lower in NF1 patients than in the general population.14 Children may develop bowing of the long bones, particularly the tibia, and pseudarthrosis, a false joint in a long bone. Children with NF1 need yearly assessment of the spine. Patients with clinical evidence of scoliosis should be referred to Orthopedics for further evaluation.

Eye issues. A majority of adult patients develop neurofibroma-like nodules in the iris known as Lisch nodules. The nodules are not thought to cause any ophthalmologic complications. Patients may also develop palpebral neurofibroma, which may become large and sporadically show malignant transformation. Optic nerve glioma may cause strabismus and proptosis, and a large number of patients will also develop glaucoma and globe enlargement.15

Gastrointestinal lesions and cancer. Neurofibromas can grow in the stomach, liver, mesentery, retroperitoneum, and bowel. Adenocarcinoma developed in 23% of patients.16 Gastrointestinal tract bleeding, pseudo-obstruction, and protein-losing enteropathy also may occur.17

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