Dr. Pepe’s Diploma Casebook 161 – Meet the examiner

Dear Friends,

This week’s case follows the pattern of a “Meet the Examiner” presentation, with questions and answers similar to a real examination. Take your time before scrolling down for the answer.

The images belong to a 60-year-old man with moderate cough and dyspnea

What would you recommend?

1. Compare with previous films
2. Chest CT
3. PET-CT
4. None of the above

Click here to see the answer

Findings: PA radiograph shows large bullae in both upper lobes. There is a nodule in the RUL projected over one bulla (A, arrow). Two small calcified granulomas are visible in the periphery of the LUL (A, circle). PA film taken five years earlier (B) does not show any nodule in the RUL. The granulomas in the LUL are unchanged.

Report of the chest : bullous emphysema with a nodule not visible in 2014. Given the relationship between bullous disease and carcinoma, it is imperative to do a chest CT.

Enhanced CT was done the next day. What would you suggest?

1. Antibiotic treatment and CXR in one month
2. PET-CT
3. Antibiotic treatment and CT in one month
4. None of the above

Click here to see the answer

Findings: aside form large bullae in both upper lobes, an irregular nodule is evident in the RUL (A-B, arrows). In my opinion, given the appearance of the nodule I would suspect malignancy and request a PET-CT. However CT was reported as: Pseudonodular opacity in RUL that could be related to an infectious/inflammatory process. A neoplasm cannot be excluded. Recommend control after treatment

Click here to see more images

A chest radiograph was taken one month later.
What would you do?

1. PET-CT
2. CXR in three months
3. CT in three months
4. Control in one year

Click here to see more images

The chest radiograph one month later was reported as unchanged and no further suggestions were made by the radiologist. The clinician took no further action.

The patient came back ten months later, and a new radiograph showed an obvious increase in size of the nodule (B, arrow) when compared to the initial film (A, arrow)

Click here to see more images

Enhanced CT confirms the increase in size of the nodule (A-B, arrows). Surgery discovered a carcinoma in the wall of a bulla.

Final diagnosis: adenocarcinoma of the lung associated to bullous disease.

Lung carcinoma seems to occur more often in bullous disease, although there is not enough evidence compiled at the present time. Despite the lack of evidence, knowing
this association may prevent misdiagnosis.
A lesser known fact is that the cystic space may disappear after the carcinoma develops, as occurred in a second case (see below). Spontaneous regression of a bulla may be due to non-malignant causes, but carcinoma should be excluded with CT because it may take years for the lesion to be visible in the chest radiograph.

I am showing this case because the opinion given in the chest radiograph was unequivocal, whereas the CT report was vapid, giving the impression that the nodule was infectious, and that malignancy was less likely. The follow-up radiograph was disregarded by the radiologist and clinician and this caused a delay in diagnosis of almost one year.

To complete the information, I am showing a second case of carcinoma developing in the wall of a cystic space

Images of the second case were obtained during routine CT screening in a 72-year-old man, heavy smoker.
Apical axial CT image shows a small nodule in the LUL (A, arrow), with increased uptake on PET-CT (C, arrow). There is a cystic airspace in the LLL (B, arrow) with no PET-CT uptake, interpreted as a non-specific cystic airspace lesion.

At surgery a carcinoma of the LUL was found.

It was decided to continue with yearly follow-up studies. The cystic air space (A, arrow) increased in size in 2008 but still had a thin wall (B, arrow). In 2009 it has decreased slightly in size and the wall is thicker than the previous year (C, arrow). A new PET-CT shows increased uptake in the posterior wall (D, arrow).

Malignancy was suspected. The patient refused further surgery or percutaneous biopsy and it was decided to do a follow up study three months later.
Axial CT shows that the cystic airspace has disappeared and in its place, a solid mass has developed (A and B, arrows) with increased overall uptake on PET-CT (C, arrow). At surgery, an adenocarcinoma was found.

Final diagnosis: adenocarcinoma arising in the wall of a cystic airspace, which disappeared as the tumour progressed.


Follow Dr. Pepe’s advice:

1. Bullous emphysema and isolated cystic spaces may be associated with an increased incidence of carcinomas

2. A poorly worded report may cause an unnecessary delay in diagnosis

2 thoughts on “Dr. Pepe’s Diploma Casebook 161 – Meet the examiner

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