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  • Author: ABM Salah Uddin, MD; Chief Editor: Stephen A Berman, MD, PhD, MBA  more...
Updated: Jan 02, 2015


Oligodendrogliomas (ODs) are primary glial brain tumors that are divided into grade II and anaplastic grade III tumors (World Health Organization [WHO] criteria). Typically, they have an indolent course, and patients may survive for many years after symptom onset. Their good prognosis relative to other parenchymal tumors probably stems from inherently less aggressive biological behavior and a favorable response to chemotherapy, a recently discovered finding based on genetic characteristics.



Oligodendrogliomas arise in the cerebral hemispheres and are distributed among the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobe, in approximately a 3:2:2:1 ratio. Rarely, they can arise in the cerebellum, brain stem, and spinal cord.[1] They usually occur in the cerebral white matter and are very cellular, with uniform nuclei. They react with glial fibrillary acidic protein on immunostaining.




United States

The incidence of oligodendrogliomas ranges from 5-19% of all intracranial tumors. The newer studies showed incidence of oligodendrogliomas to be around 25% of all gliomas. This may be explained by the improvements in the treatment of oligodendrogliomas, prompting neuropathologists to favor the diagnosis.


No difference in the incidence of oligodendroglioma exists worldwide.


The morbidity and mortality profile for oligodendrogliomas is much better than for astrocytic tumors. However, it also depends on tumor location and pressure effects, as with any other intracranial lesion. The median survival from initial diagnosis of all low-grade oligodendrogliomas (LGOs) is 4-10 years, but it is only 3-4 years for anaplastic oligodendrogliomas.


No difference exists among the races.


Oligodendrogliomas occur in both sexes, with a male-to-female predominance of 2:1.


Oligodendrogliomas may be diagnosed at any age but occur most commonly in young and middle-aged adults, with a median age at diagnosis of 40-50 years. In children, only 6% of gliomas are diagnosed as oligodendrogliomas.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

ABM Salah Uddin, MD Private Practice, Norwood Neurology; Consulting Staff, Department of Neurology, St Vincent's Hospital

ABM Salah Uddin, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, American Epilepsy Society, American Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Tambi Jarmi, MD Resident Physician, Department of Internal Medicine, Carraway Methodist Medical Center

Tambi Jarmi, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians, American Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Jorge C Kattah, MD Head, Associate Program Director, Professor, Department of Neurology, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria

Jorge C Kattah, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, American Neurological Association, New York Academy of Sciences

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Stephen A Berman, MD, PhD, MBA Professor of Neurology, University of Central Florida College of Medicine

Stephen A Berman, MD, PhD, MBA is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Neurology, Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


The authors and editors of Medscape Reference gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous author Subramanian Hariharan, MD to the development and writing of this article.

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Classic histologic image of oligodendroglioma. This image shows monomorphous tumoral proliferation that consists of round, regular cells with a small, central, hyperchromatic nucleus surrounded by clear cytoplasm. Few calcifications are present.
Smear preparation of anaplastic oligodendroglioma. This image reveals increased nuclear pleomorphism and vascular proliferation.
Contrast-enhanced computed tomography scan in a 44-year-old man with a 3-year history of epileptic seizures. This image reveals a calcified hypoattenuating lesion that is invading the corpus callosum.
Computed tomography scan of a low-grade oligodendroglioma. This image reveals a well-demarcated, left frontal hypoattenuating lesion with a small calcification.
Sagittal gadolinium-enhanced T1-weighted magnetic resonance image of a low-grade oligodendroglioma. This image demonstrates no contrast enhancement.
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