The identification of paraganglia (PG) in the gallbladder (GB) is infrequent, and easily overlooked as it is not something routinely reported. Occasionally they may be misinterpreted as neoplastic cells, such as low-grade carcinomas, germ cell tumors, or because of their close resemblance to neuroendocrine cells, as low-grade neuroendocrine neoplasms.


To evaluate the incidence and histological features of PG of the GB in patients that underwent cholecystectomy, and discuss the potential misinterpretation of these benign structures as clusters of neoplastic cells.


A retrospective study of cholecystectomy specimens performed over a 6-month period were reviewed for identification of PG. Immunohistochemical studies for chromogranin, synaptophysin, S100, and cytokeratin AE1/AE3 were performed in selected cases.


A total of 365 GB were reviewed and in 16 cases (4.4%) PG was identified within the subserosal connective tissue of the GB wall or cystic duct adjacent to small capillaries, nerves, and ganglia. They consisted of well-demarcated, lobular structures ranging in size from 0.2 to 0.5 cm, which were predominantly composed of chief cells; with strong expression for chromogranin and synaptophysin and negative CKAE1/AE3, and a minor component of S100-positive sustentacular cells.


PG is an uncommon finding with a prevalence of 4.4% in our study. Awareness of their location, histologic features, and immunohistochemical profile may help practicing pathologists to confirm their benign nature, avoid a misdiagnosis of malignancy, and prevent unnecessary diagnostic work-up and treatment.

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Author notes

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.

This was presented in its preliminary form as a poster presentation at the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology 2019 Annual meeting on March 19th, 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland.