The purpose of this article is to review the imaging findings of the different expansile lesions of the thymus. Almost 50% of all mediastinal masses are located in the anterior mediastinum. The thymus is the most common site of origin of these masses. Several kinds of lesions can arise from this gland because it derives from the three embryonic germ cell layers. Primary neoplasms of the thymus are thymoma, thymolipomas, carcinoma, carcinoid, primary germ cell tumors, and lymphoma. The latter can also involve the organ in a secondary fashion. Other lesions that cause thymic enlargement and that can be confused with neoplasia are thymic cysts and thymic hyperplasia. Even though anterior mediastinal masses are first found on conventional radiographs, computed tomography and magnetic resonance are very useful additional studies for assessing the origin and extension of these masses. The basic concepts regarding embryology, anatomy, and histology relevant for the differential diagnosis of an enlarged thymic gland are also described.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging