The purpose of this study was to investigate the natural history of the high signal intensities shown on long TR sequences—neurofibromatosis type 1 bright objects (NBO)—in children with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). We have paid particular attention to the development of tumors in these areas of abnormality.


During a 12-month period in 1992 to 1993, 46 children with clinically proven NF1 had a magnetic resonance (MR) examination at our institution. These were reviewed along with any previous or subsequent MR examinations that had been performed. We recorded the number, volume, and distribution of the abnormal high signal intensities and their change with time when serial examinations were performed.


NBO were found in 93% of 46 children with NF1 on the original cross-sectional study. The most common anatomic sites were the globus pallidus (30.4%), cerebellum (23.5%), and midbrain (16.2%). The number and volume of NBO varied significantly with age. NBO were uncommon in children younger than 4 years but were very common and extensive between 4 to 10 years. A significant reduction in the number and volume of NBO was demonstrated in children older than 10 years as shown on both the cross-sectional and longitudinal portions of the study. Eight brain tumors (nonoptic pathway) were demonstrated in the 46 children (17%) with 1 child having two tumors. Only 1 child had symptoms referable to the tumor at the time of diagnosis. Five tumors developed in NBO that were documented on serial MR examinations. All those cases developed in children aged 7 to 12 years, and all these children had higher than average numbers and volumes of NBO.


NBO occur commonly in children with NF1 and are most prevalent between the ages of 4 and 10. We have shown a high frequency of brain tumors in our children with NF1, but the majority of these were asymptomatic. We have demonstrated proliferative change NBO in 11% of 46 children. Most NBO regress with age and seem to be benign, however, young children with a large number and volume of NBO should be followed closely with regular MR examinations because of an increased risk of proliferative change. neurofibromatosis type 1, magnetic resonance, tumor, astrocytoma, childhood.

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