Subgemmal neurogenous plaques of the tongue: a systematic autopsy study

Vol. 63 No. 3, 2022


Jose-Fernando Val-Bernal, Maria-Francisca Garijo, Natalia Fontanil

Subgemmal neurogenous plaque (SNP) is a subepithelial nerve plexus associated with taste buds, occasionally observed in tongue biopsies. There is no evaluation of the prevalence of this structure in the general population. We present a systematic study of samples obtained at random from the dorsal portion of the oral tongue in 205 consecutive complete autopsies. Each sample was about 15 mm long and 10 mm thick. Four hundred fifty-eight samples were routinely obtained and an average of 2.23+/-0.88 samples per case (range 1-7) was collected. The total number of SNPs observed was 556, with a mean of 2.71+/-2.68 per case (range 0-16). This means that for every 15 linear mm of the oral tongue, approximately 2.7 SNPs can be present. SNPs display several ages, and they do not show sex differences. The mean size of these structures was 2.1+/-0.94 mm (range 0.6-3.6 mm). SNP is characterized by its unique neural, zonal pattern with a superficial neurofibroma-like area and a deeper neuroma-like area. Special features of the SNPs include the presence of taste buds (49.1%), ganglion cells (26.3%), dilated thin-walled vessels (11.3%), salivary gland excretory ducts emptying on the surface of the papillae (6.1%), moderate-severe inflammatory infiltrate (6.8%), presence of lymphoid tissue in the vicinity (7.0%), and hyperplasia of the epithelial cover with pseudoepitheliomatous appearance (7.0%). The differential diagnoses include schwannoma, neurofibroma, ganglioneuroma, traumatic neuroma, mucosal neuroma, and squamous cell carcinoma. SNPs are small, normal structures that may undergo hyperplasia and are usually seen incidentally.

Corresponding author: Jose-Fernando Val-Bernal, Professor, MD, PhD; e-mail:

DOI: 10.47162/RJME.63.3.09 Download PDF
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