Document Type


Publication Title

Neurosurgical Focus


Objective: Neurocutaneous melanocytosis (NCM), also referred to as neurocutaneous melanosis, is a rare neurocutaneous disorder characterized by excess melanocytic proliferation in the skin, leptomeninges, and cranial parenchyma. NCM most often presents in pediatric patients within the first 2 years of life and is associated with high mortality due to proliferation of melanocytes in the brain. Prognosis is poor, as patients typically die within 3 years of symptom onset. Due to the rarity of NCM, there are no specific guidelines for management. The aims of this systematic review were to investigate approaches toward diagnosis and examine modern neurosurgical management of NCM.

Methods: A systematic review was performed using the PubMed database between April and December 2021 to identify relevant articles using PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines. Search criteria were created and checked independently among the authors. Inclusion criteria specified unique studies and case reports of NCM patients in which relevant neurosurgical management was considered and/or applied. Exclusion criteria included studies that did not report associated neurological diagnoses and neuroimaging findings, clinical reports without novel observations, and those unavailable in the English language. All articles that met the study inclusion criteria were included and analyzed.

Results: A total of 26 extracted articles met inclusion criteria and were used for quantitative analysis, yielding a cumulative of 74 patients with NCM. These included 21 case reports, 1 case series, 2 retrospective cohort studies, 1 prospective cohort study, and 1 review. The mean patient age was 16.66 years (range 0.25-67 years), and most were male (76%). Seizures were the most frequently reported symptom (55%, 41/74 cases). Neurological diagnoses associated with NCM included epilepsy (45%, 33/74 cases), hydrocephalus (24%, 18/74 cases), Dandy-Walker malformation (24%, 18/74 cases), and primary CNS melanocytic tumors (23%, 17/74 cases). The most common surgical technique was CSF shunting (43%, 24/56 operations), with tethered cord release (4%, 2/56 operations) being the least frequently performed.

Conclusions: Current management of NCM includes CSF shunting to reduce intracranial pressure, surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, and palliative care. Neurosurgical intervention can aid in the diagnosis of NCM through tissue biopsy and resection of lesions with surgical decompression. Further evidence is required to establish the clinical outcomes of this rare entity and to describe the diverse spectrum of intracranial and intraspinal abnormalities present.



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Dandy-Walker complex, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, neurocutaneous melanocytosis, neurocutaneous melanosis, pediatrics