Giant cells

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Giant cell from a bronchial wash. Pap stain.

Giant cells are "big" cells with multiple nuclei. They come in different flavours, which are suggestive of causality.

This article deals with the classic types of giant cells. A more general differential diagnosis of giant cells is in giant cell lesions.

Giant cell types


  • Touton giant cell.
  • Osteoclast-like giant cell.
  • Foreign body type giant cell.


Type Histology DDx Other Image
Touton giant cell Nuclei form a ring around the cell periphery with eosinophilic cytoplasm centrally and foamy cytoplasm at the periphery. Juvenile xanthogranuloma, xanthoma, Erdheim-Chester disease, fat necrosis, dermatofibroma High lipid content lesions[1], Named after Karl Touton
Epithelioid type scattered nuclei[2] drug reaction, neoplasm, foreign body, infection, idiopathic, autoimmune, allergic granulomatous inflammation
Granuloma (WC)
Langhans giant cell peripheral semi-circular eccentric nuclei[2] tuberculosis, sarcoidosis. not to be confused with Langerhans cells, Named after Theodor Langhans
Osteoclast-like giant cells multiple bland central nuclei, ruffled cell membrane. osteoclasts, others AKA osteoclast-type giant cells

See also


  1. URL: Accessed on: 7 February 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Borley, Neil R.; Warren, Bryan F. (2007). Instant Pathology (1st ed.). Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 7. ISBN 978-1405132909.