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Table 1 Contents of each mediastinal compartment and the most commonly encountered lesions [1, 4, 5]

From: Role of diffusion weighted MR-imaging in the evaluation of malignant mediastinal lesions

CompartmentMajor contentsCommon lesions
Anterior (prevascular)Thymus
Fat
Lymph nodes
Left brachiocephalic vein
• Thymic lesions/masses
• Germ cell neoplasms
• Lymphoma
• Intra-thoracic goiter
• Metastatic lymphadenopathy
(50% of all mediastinal masses)
Middle (visceral)Non-vascular:
trachea, carina, esophagus, lymph nodes
Vascular:
heart, aorta,
superior vena cava, intra-pericardial pulmonary arteries, thoracic duct
• Lymphoma
• Metastatic lymphadenopathy
• Foregut duplication cysts
• Tracheal lesions
• Esophageal masses
• Aortic aneurysms
• Cardiac masses
• Pericardial masses/cysts
(Congenital cysts are the most common)
Posterior (para-vertebral)Paravertebral soft tissues• Benign and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors
• Sympathetic ganglia tumors
• Lateral thoracic meningocele
• Extramedullary hematopoiesis
(Neurogenic tumors are the most common)
 Central bronchogenic carcinoma may be allocated to/involve any one or more of the three mediastinal compartments.