Dr. Pepe’s Diploma Casebook: CASE 144 – SOLVED

Dear Friends,
presenting chest radiograph of a 77-year-old man with malaise and weight loss.
What do you see?

This is the last case before the summer. Will see you again in September. Enjoy your vacation!

Click here to see the images

Click here to see the solution

Findings: PA radiograph shows increased opacity of the left hilum (A, arrow), which is due to a mass projected over it, as seen in the lateral view (B, arrows). In addition, there is convexity of the aortopulmonary window (A, red arrow)

The increased hilar opacity (C, arrow) was not visible in a PA radiograph taken six months earlier (D, circle). Convexity of the aortopulmonary window (C, red arrow) was not present at that time.

In the lateral view, the mass (E, arrows) was visible six month earlier, albeit smaller (F, arrow). This progression indicates rapid growth.

Enhanced axial and coronal CT confirms a pulmonary mass invading the aortopulmonary window (G and H, arrows). Lung metastases were present (insert, red arrows)

Diagnosis: lung carcinoma invading the aortopulmonary window

I am presenting this case to discuss the aortopulmonary window (APW), which is a small mediastinal space located between the aortic knob and the pulmonary artery in the PA view (Fig 1A). The APW is normally concave; convexity (Fig 1B) suggests an abnormality that should be studied with enhanced CT.

Fig. 1.

Visibility of the APW is difficult in the elderly, because the superimposed uncoiled descending aorta makes the interpretation more difficult (Fig 2).

Fig 2. 67-year-old man with moderate dyspnea. A calcified lymph node (A-D, red arrows) marks the APW, which is hidden in the PA view by the elongated descending aorta.

Convexity of the APW may be overlooked unless we look specifically at the area (fig 3). The larger the abnormality, the more readily it is detected in the chest radiograph. Subtle changes are more difficult to identify and comparing with previous films is very helpful.

Fig. 3. 55-year-old man consulting for acute chest pain. PA film shows two Hampton humps in the right lower lung (A, white arrows). The left hilum is abnormal (A, red arrow). Enhanced coronal CT confirms the infarcts (B, white arrows), as well as a pulmonary mass (B, red arrow) and lymphadenopathy in the APW (B, yellow arrow). Findings were overlooked in a radiograph taken seven months earlier (C, yellow and red arrows). Proven bronchogenic carcinoma.

Causes that may alter the APW are: tumors, enlarged lymph nodes, aortic aneurysms and increased mediastinal fat. The phrenic nerve crosses this space and a phrenic neurinoma may also grow in the APW, although I have never seen a case.

Enlarged lymph nodes are by far the most common cause of occupation of the APW. They may occur in malignant and non-malignant diseases. They usually coexist with radiographic manifestations of the primary process (Figs 4 and 5).

Fig 4. 59-year-old man with apical LUL carcinoma (A and B, arrows). There is a marked bulge of the APW (A and B, red arrows). Moderate pneumothorax after needle biopsy.

Coronal and axial CT confirm metastatic lymph nodes in the APW (C and D, red arrows)

Fig 5. 33-year-old woman with low-grade fever and malaise. Chest radiographs shows a non-descript infiltrate in the anterior segment of the RUL (A and B, arrows). In addition, there is a prominent bulge in the APW, highly suspicious of lymphadenopathy (A, red arrow). Diagnosis: Hodgkin lymphoma.

In isolated occupation of the APW the etiology cannot be determined in the chest radiograph and enhanced CT should be obtained (fig 6).

Fig 6. Routine check-up in a 60-year-old woman. PA radiograph shows moderate convexity of the APW (A, arrow). Enhanced CT confirms enlarged lymph nodes in the APW (B and C, arrows), mediastinum and hila. Diagnosis: sarcoidosis

Aortic aneurysm is an uncommon cause of convexity of the APW (Fig 7). The abnormality is initially subtle and it becomes more evident as the aneurysm grows (Fig 8).

Fig 7. 78-year-old man without significant symptoms. PA radiograph shows a mediastinal mass protruding at the level of the APW (A and C arrows). The mass is also evident in the lateral view (B and D, arrows).

Radiographs taken five years earlier did not show the abnormality (E and F, circles).

Enhanced axial and coronal CT demonstrate that the mass represents a saccular aneurysm arising from the aortic arch (G and H, arrows).

Fig 8. 78-year-old man after a fall. PA radiograph shows numerous rib fractures (A, white arrows). An additional finding is a mediastinal opacity at the APW (A, red arrow), also visible in the lateral view (B, red arrow).

Comparison with previous films shows a normal APW in 2007 and progression of the opacity over a three-year period (arrows).

Enhanced CT shows that the opacity represents a partially thrombosed aneurysm arising from the inferior aspect of the aortic arch (C-D and E, arrows).

Last but not least, we should remember that mediastinal fat is an innocuous cause of convexity of the APW (Fig 9).

Fig 9. Asymptomatic 57-year-old man with superior mediastinal widening (A, arrow) and discrete convexity of the APW (A, red arrow). Coronal CT shows that the changes are due to mediastinal fat (B and C, arrows).

Follow Dr. Pepe’s advice:

1. Convexity of the APW suggests underlying pathology.

2. Enlarged lymph nodes are the most common cause of a convex APW.

3. Aneurysm and mediastinal fat may also enlarge the APW

Dr. Pepe’s Diploma Casebook: CASE 143 – The wisdom of Dr. Pepe – SOLVED

Dear Friends,

This case belong to the section “The wisdom of Dr. Pepe”, in which an (useful?) aphorism ends the presentation.

I am presenting a routine PA radiograph in an asymptomatic 79-year-old woman operated on for a breast DCIS five years ago. PA radiograph taken five years earlier is shown for comparison. More images will be shown on Wednesday.


1. Granulomas
2. Metastases
3. Primary lung tumor(s)
4. Any of the above

Click here to see the images

Dear Friends,

showing CT images with and without contrast enhancement.

What would your diagnosis be?

1. Carcinoma
2. Active TB
3. Fibrous lung tumor
4. Any of the above

Click here to see the CT

Click here to see the answer

Findings: The PA chest radiograph shows two obvious small nodules in the left middle lung field (A, circle), not present five years earlier (B). In my experience, two nodules close together are usually granulomas. But in this case we have another finding: a subtle bulge in the left hilum (A, arrow), not visible in the previous film, highly suspicious of hilar adenopathy. This changes the diagnostic orientation and makes us think of an active process.

Unenhanced axial CT shows an hourglass-shaped pulmonary lesion (C and D, arrows) that simulated two nodules in the chest radiograph. The lesion enhances after contrast injection and contains a large arterial vessel (E, arrow). Non-enhancing lymph nodes are visible in the left hilum (F, arrow).
Although all three diagnoses offered in the blog can cause hilar adenopathy, the vascularity of the lesion points to a tumor.

PET-CT shows faint uptake of the primary lesion and the hilar lymph nodes (G and H, arrows). A needle biopsy (I, arrow) came back as an atypical small-cell tumor.

The patient was treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, with a good response of the primary tumor (J, arrow) and lymph nodes (K, circle).

Final diagnosis: SCLC with hilar metastasis and a good response to QT and RT

Discussion: I just finished reading “The subtle art of not giving a f*ck“ and there is an enlightening (and sadly true) chapter entitled “You are not special”. In this particular case I was feeling special, as I diagnosed a malignant pulmonary fibroma based on a single case seen 20 years ago (see below) because of the similarity of the vascular pattern in the two cases. After 50 years of practice, I forgot a basic principle: common conditions are, well, common. I’m showing this case to remind you that when faced with a diagnostic dilemma you should first consider common options rather than uncommon ones.

To redeem myself, I am showing my only case of fibrous tumor of lung in a 37-year-old woman with hemoptysis. The PA radiograph shows a well-defined paramediastinal nodule (A, arrow). Enhanced coronal and sagittal CT confirms the intrapulmonary location of the nodule, which has a large arterial vessel in the center with an aneurysm at the end (B and C, arrows).

Surgery confirmed a fibrous tumor of the lung.

Two bits of information about fibrous tumor of the lung: It is a very unusual spindle-cell tumor with the same histology as fibrous tumors of pleura, and like them, it has malignant potential. It is usually asymptomatic and is seen as a rounded or ovoid nodule of varying size. Immunohistochemistry is important for the diagnosis.

Follow Dr. Pepe’s pearls of wisdom:

Always consider that what you are seeing is a rare manifestation of a common disease rather than a common manifestation of a rare disease.

Dr. Pepe’s Diploma Casebook: CASE 142 – Art of interpretation – SOLVED

Dear Friends,

today I am presenting another “Art of interpretation” case. I like them and think they have good teaching value.
Radiographs were taken for preoperative knee surgery in a 21-year-old man.

What is the most likely diagnosis?

1. Swyer-James-McLeod syndrome
2. Congenital hypoplasia of left lung
3. LUL collapse
4. None of the above

Click here to see the images

Click here to see the answer

Findings: PA radiograph shows a hyperlucent left lung with a small elevated hilum (A, white arrow). The trachea is deviated towards the left and the left main bronchus is curved upward (A, blue arrow). There is a small peak in the left hemidiaphragm (A, red arrow). And there is a triangular-shaped paraspinal opacity (A, circle), better seen in the cone down view (B, white arrow), with two linear metallic opacities inside (B, red arrows).

The lateral view (C) is unremarkable. Although the PA findings suggest loss of volume of the LUL, there are some negative findings: no anterior displacement of the left major fissure and no opacity indicative of LUL collapse.

Analysis of the findings

There are four obvious findings:

1. Hyperlucent left lung with small left hilum
2. Tracheal deviation to the left
3. Upward curving of left main bronchus
4. Juxtaphrenic peak (*)

All these findings are indicative of LUL volume loss with compensatory overinflation of the LLL.

There are two less obvious findings, which are diagnostic:

Paramediastinal opacity with surgical staples
No signs of LUL collapse in the lateral view

The first indicates previous surgery and the second excludes LUL collapse. Taken together, these findings lead to the obvious conclusion that the patient had undergone a previous lobectomy.

(*) The juxtaphrenic peak sign was described by my late friend Kenneth Kattan as an indirect sign of LUL collapse. Semin Roentgenol 1980; 15:187-193


In the past, the patient had embryonal carcinoma of the testicle with a metastatic nodule in the LUL (A and B, arrows). He had undergone LUL lobectomy by video-assisted thoracic surgery one year before.

Final diagnosis: LUL lobectomy for metastasis of embryonal testicular carcinoma

I’m showing this case to emphasize the importance of identifying metal sutures in the chest radiograph. Nowadays, most surgical procedures are done by video thoracoscopy which doesn’t leave any telltale signs other than surgical staples. These are difficult to see because of their small size and because high kV “burns” metal density.

Staples are visible as a faint longitudinal ring chain somewhat denser than the surrounding tissues. It’s very important to be familiar with their radiographic appearance because they offer valuable information about previous surgery.
When staples are detected, our interpretation of associated findings may change, as occurred with the case presented.

To familiarize you with the radiological appearance of surgical staples, I’m showing three more cases.


88-year-o.ld man with dementia and moderate dyspnea. Chest radiographs show a nodule in the RUL (A and B, arrows). PA view shows post-surgical changes at the left 6th and 7th ribs and a hyperlucent left lung with a small hilum. There are surgical clips in the mediastinum (A and B, red circles). These findings suggest a previous LUL lobectomy and a second primary tumor. The patient’s records disclosed a LUL lobectomy for carcinoma twenty years earlier. The second primary tumor was confirmed by needle biopsy.
The radiographic findings are typical of “old” chest surgery.


PA radiograph of a 23-year-old woman with a nondescript LUL infiltrate (A, arrow). Close-up view reveals a longitudinal ring chain of staples within the infiltrate (B, arrows), pointing to a man-made opacity secondary to video thoracic surgery.

Diagnosis: changes after endoscopic LUL bullectomy for recurrent pneumothorax.

I saw this case three weeks ago and it is still unproven. A 44-year-old woman from another country came for a routine cardiac checkup. The PA chest radiograph shows a serpiginous opacity in the LLL (A, arrow) with a ring chain of staples in the periphery, better seen in the cone down view (B, arrows). On questioning, the patient mentioned previous endoscopic surgery for a nodule in the left lung two years ago. Enhanced CT shows a solid lesion with staples in the periphery (C, arrow).

As the patient could not provide previous medical records, we were unable to ensure that the changes were attributable to scar tissue. A follow-up CT has been scheduled.

Final words: Staples are difficult to reproduce on the computer screen, and I have done my best. I assure you that they are easily visible on a 14 by 17 reading console, provided that you see and recognize them 🙂

Follow Dr. Pepe’s teaching points:

1. Surgical staples are visible as a faint longitudinal ring chain.

2. They indicate previous surgery and help to interpret the chest findings under a new light.

Dr. Pepe’s Diploma Casebook: CASE 141 – SOLVED

Dear Friends,

Today I am showing radiographs of a 47-year-old woman with chronic cough.
What do you see?

Leave your comments here and come back on Friday to see the answer.

Click here to see the images

Click here to see the answer

Findings: PA radiograph shows marked downward displacement of the right hilum (A, white arrow) and verticalization of the intermediate bronchus (A, red arrow). These findings are indicative of marked volume loss of RLL. The lateral view (B) is unremarkable.

Enhanced coronal CT confirms the descended right hilum (C, white arrow), as well as the vertical intermediate bronchus (C, red arrow). A different slice shows a small calcified triangular shadow (D, arrow), which represents a markedly collapsed RLL.

Final diagnosis: severe RLL collapse due to previous TB

In the previous webinar (Diploma case 139), I described the common signs that suggest lobar collapse. In this presentation I want to review atypical forms of lobar collapse and how to recognize them.
The main signs of lobar collapse are volume loss and increased opacity of the lobe. Atypical presentations lack these traits, and the lobe appears to have an increased volume (drowned lobe) or to have collapsed without increased opacity (aerated collapse). A third variant would be a lobe that has lost most of its volume (extreme collapse) and therefore is difficult to identify as such, as occurred in the initial case.

In extreme collapse, the affected lobe is severely decreased in size and may be overlooked, or confused with a different process (Fig. 1). The diagnosis is suggested by secondary findings, such as hilar displacement and/or increased lucency of the unaffected lobe(s) (Figs. 2 and 3).

Fig. 1. 57-year-old man with carcinoma of the RUL bronchus causing severe RUL collapse. The medial displacement of the collapsed lobe simulates mediastinal widening (A, white arrow). The clue to the diagnosis is a small and slightly elevated right hilum (A, red arrow). The lateral view (B) is unremarkable.

Enhanced axial CT image depicts a horizontal sliver of tissue, corresponding to the markedly collapsed RUL, sharply outlined by the minor fissure (C and D, white arrows). Note the obstructed RUL bronchus (D, red arrow). Bronchogenic carcinoma.

Fig. 2. Pre-op film for cataracts in a 72-year-old man. PA chest film shows a lucent left lung. Severe LLL collapse is suspected because of the downward left hilar displacement (A, white arrow) and a triangular-shaped paramediastinal opacity (red arrow). The posterior left hemidiaphragm is blurred in the lateral view (B, arrow).

Enhanced axial CT shows the markedly collapsed lobe (C, arrow). Coronal CT depicts a mass obstructing the LLL bronchus (D, arrow). Final diagnosis: carcinoma.

Fig. 3. 67-year-old woman with extreme LUL collapse secondary to previous TB. The diagnosis is suspected because the collapsed lobe causes haziness of the left mediastinal border in the PA film (A, arrows). The expanded LLL causes increased lucency of the left hemithorax. Lateral view shows marked anterior displacement of the left major fissure (B, arrows).

Coronal and sagittal CT confirm the extreme LUL collapse with bronchiectasis. The major fissure is well depicted in the coronal and sagittal reconstructions (C and D, arrows).

The finding known as drowned lobe is a variant of lobar collapse in which the lobe does not decrease in size but instead, enlarges. It occurs when a slow-growing proximal tumor permits accumulation of distal secretions and infection, causing an increase in size of the lobe (Fig. 4). Bulky tumor masses may contribute to this enlargement (Fig. 5).

Fig. 4. 55-year-old woman with widespread lung disease and a large opacity occupying the upper two thirds of the right lung in the PA radiograph (A, white arrows). The right hilum (A, red arrow) is in a normal position. The lateral view shows that the opacity corresponds to an enlarged RUL (B, arrows).

Enhanced axial and coronal CT shows the enlarged RUL lobe (C and D, white arrows), secondary to central obstruction of the RUL bronchus (C and D, red arrows). Diagnosis: drowned RUL secondary to central carcinoma

Fig. 5. 47-year-old woman with drowned LLL, which appears in the PA radiograph as a uniform mass occupying the lower two thirds of the left lung (A, arrow), recognizable in the lateral view as a swollen LLL (B, arrows).

Enhanced axial CT confirms the swollen LLL (C, white arrow). PET-CT shows that part of the bulk is due to a large tumor mass (D, white arrow), invading the pulmonary veins and left atrium (C and D, red arrows).

In aerated collapse the lobe loses volume, but does not increase in opacity, making the collapse less obvious. This happens because increased opacity is not related with volume loss, but rather with the amount of secretions within the lobe. If the partially collapsed lobe contains air, the lobe will appear to have normal lucency.
In aerated collapse, the diagnosis is suspected by displacement of the hilum, the fissure, or both (Figs. 6-8).

Fig. 6. Aerated RLL collapse in carcinoma. PA chest film depicts a right hilar mass (A and B, red arrows), with a descended hilum. The lowered major fissure is barely visible (A, white arrow). In the lateral view, the collapsed lobe is seen as a faint opacity projected over the spine (B, white arrow). Bronchoscopy confirmed an endobronchial carcinoma.

Fig. 7. Aerated RLL collapse secondary to bronchiectasis. PA radiograph shows a markedly displaced major fissure simulating an inferior accessory fissure (A, white arrow). There is marked downward displacement of the right hilum (A, red arrow). Coronal CT confirms the findings (B, red and white arrow), with bronchiectasis and an open RLL bronchus

Fig. 8. 75-year-old man who had TB in his youth. Chest radiographs show aerated collapse of the LUL, demonstrated in the PA view by the small elevated left hilum (A, arrow) and by the anterior displacement of the major fissure in the lateral view (B, arrows). Note that the LUL is well aerated.

Follow Dr. Pepe’s advice:

1. Common manifestations of lobar collapse are loss of volume and increased opacity.

2. Uncommon manifestations of lobar collapse are extreme collapse, drowned lobe, and aerated collapse.

3. These uncommon manifestations are suspected based on secondary signs: hilar and/or fissure displacement and increased lucency of the unaffected lobe(s).

Dr. Pepe Case 140 – Art of interpretation – SOLVED!

Dear Friends,

I am presenting today a new “Art of interpretation” case.
Radiographs belong to a 51-year-old with chest pain, dyspnea and D-dimer of 750.

1. Pulmonary infarct
2. Pneumonia
3. Chronic pulmonary changes
4. None of the above

What do you see? Come back on Friday to see the answer!

Click here to see the images

Click here to see the answer

Findings: the PA radiograph shows an ill-defined opacity in the right mid-lung field (A, white arrows) which looks intrapulmonary. There is blunting of the right costophrenic angle, indicative of pleural disease (A, red arrow).

The main diagnostic findings are seen in the lateral view. There are oblique posterior pulmonary strands (“crow’s feet”) (B, white arrow) which lead our attention to a posterior vertical white line (B, red arrows), which represents calcified pleura.
A negative finding is the absence of pulmonary disease in the lateral view.

These findings are better seen in the cone down views (C and D, arrows) .

Analysis of findings:
1. Apparent pulmonary disease in the PA radiograph
2. No visible pulmonary disease in the lateral view
3. Blunting of costophrenic angle with calcified posterior pleura
4. Crow’s feet

Summing up the findings: The apparent pulmonary disease in the PA view, which was not seen in the lateral view, together with chronic pleural disease (evidenced by blunting of the costophrenic angle and calcified posterior pleura) are highly suggestive of pleural disease simulating a pulmonary infiltrate.


Enhanced axial CT confirms the posterior calcified pleura (A, arrow), the lack of pulmonary infiltrate, and the crow’s feet adjacent to the diseased pleura (B, red arrow).
Crow’s feet are better seen in the coronal and sagittal reconstructions (C and D, red arrows), especially the sagittal view, which is practically identical to the lateral chest radiograph.

Final diagnosis: Pleural calcification simulating pulmonary infiltrate

(My heartfelt thanks to Dr. Eva Castañer for providing the CT images)

Pleural calcifications are not uncommon. Bilateral calcifications are almost always related to asbestos exposure. Unilateral calcifications are usually due to a previous infection or hemorrhage. In any case, when located in the anterior or posterior chest wall they are seen en face in the PA radiograph and may be confused with pulmonary infiltrates, as in the present case. Seen in profile in the lateral view they appear as a calcified line, and the diagnosis is then evident.

Sometimes, the calcified pleura are overlooked. In this particular case we have a useful marker that points our attention to the diseased pleura: the radiologic sign known as crow’s feet which represents subsegmental areas of peripheral fibrosis/atelectasis fixed by the fibrotic pleura. They are likely an early stage of rounded atelectasis. (Personally, I prefer the alternative term sun rays rather than crow’s feet. As a frequent visitor to Minorca, I am more familiar with sun rays than with crows, let alone their feet).

To emphasize the deceitful appearance of pleural calcification, I am showing two more cases.


Radiographs belong to a 52-year-old asymptomatic woman. The PA radiograph shows what appears to be a poorly-defined pulmonary infiltrate in the left lung (A, arrow). The lateral view shows two calcified pleural plaques: the posterior one is depicted as a calcified line (B, white arrow), whereas the anterior one is more oblique and simulates a rounded opacity (B, red arrow).

Sagittal CT clearly shows the anterior (C, arrow) and posterior plaques (D, arrow). No pulmonary infiltrates were seen in the lung view (not shown).


Preoperative PA chest radiograph in a 57-year-old man. There are several opacities in the left hemithorax that may be pulmonary infiltrates (A, white arrows) accompanied by left diaphragmatic and pleural calcifications (A, red arrows).

In the coronal CT (B) there are no lung abnormalities. Enhanced axial and sagittal CTs depict extensive pleural calcification (C and D, arrows). The apparent pulmonary infiltrates were due to pleural calcifications depicted en face. The patient had a history of TB in his youth.

Dr. Pepe’s teaching points:

1. Pleural disease can simulate pulmonary infiltrates.

2. Crow’s feet can direct our attention to overlooked pleural disease

Dr. Pepe Case 139 – Webinar

Dear Friends,

Presenting PA chest radiograph of a 57-year-old woman with dyspnea and  fever.

What would be your diagnosis?
1. Lobar collapse
2. Pneumonia
3. Unilateral pulmonary edema
4. Any of the above

You have one week to post your answers. The correct answer will be given during the webinar of Wednesday 3 at 12:30 P.M.
You can join the webinar here

Click here to see the image

Dr. Pepe’s Diploma Casebook: CASE 138 – MEET THE EXAMINER

Dear Friends,

in the aftermath of the European Congress of Radiology a have elected to show a new “Meet the Examiner” presentation, with questions and answers similar to a real examination. You will get the final answer at the end of the presentation.

Take your time before seeking the answer.

This case starts with a preoperative PA chest radiograph of a 52-year-old man. No other information was provided in the request. What do you see?

Click here to see the answer

Findings: PA radiograph shows an obvious convexity of the left paraspinal line (arrow). There is an abnormal opacity in the periphery of the right lung (circle), which may be related to the rib cage.

Click here to obtain more information

After seeing the chest radiograph, we looked into the case further and discovered that the patient was scheduled for biopsy of a collapsed mid-thoracic vertebra, which would explain the bulging of the paraspinal line. Below is the MRI study. What would be your diagnosis?
1. Aggressive hemangioma
2. Metastases
3. Myeloma
4. Any of the above

Click here to see the answer

Findings: The eighth thoracic vertebra is flattened, impinging on the spinal canal. There is a central lesion in D7 and a smaller one in the anterior aspect of D5. (arrows). The findings were interpreted as an aggressive hemangioma at D8 and smaller hemangiomas at C7 and C5. A CT was requested to obtain more information.

Click here to see the CT

Axial, coronal and sagittal CT images are shown. What would be your diagnosis?

1. Aggressive hemangioma
2. Metastases
3. Myeloma
4. Any of the above

Click here to see the answer

Findings: axial CT (A) shows the typical “polka dot” appearance of vertebral hemangioma.
Coronal and sagittal views demonstrate the collapsed vertebra (B and C, white arrows) with a soft-tissue mass (B, red arrow) which explains the finding in the chest radiograph. A punched-out cortical lesion in D5 was overlooked (C, yellow arrow).

Click here to see more studies

In the meantime, we were concerned about the abnormal right peripheral opacity seen in the chest radiograph. Oblique views of the right hemithorax were taken. What do you see?

Click here to see the answer

Findings: the right oblique view shows what appears to be an old rib fracture accompanied by pleural thickening (A, white arrow). A serendipitous finding is the discovery of lytic lesions in the scapula (A, red arrows). The left oblique view also shows a lytic lesion in the right humerus (B, arrow).

The findings in the oblique chest radiographs prompted a review of the spinal CT. Numerous punched-out cortical lesions that had been overlooked were noted (arrows). This discovery suggested widespread malignant bone infiltration. Given that the patient was in good general condition, multiple myeloma was the first diagnostic choice. Vertebral biopsy provided the final diagnosis of myeloma.

Final diagnosis: multiple myeloma invading a vertebral hemangioma

Vertebral hemangioma is the most common vascular lesion of the spine and is present in about 10% of the population. The favored location is the mid-thoracic spine. In this particular patient we suspect that an unrelated multiple myeloma had invaded a previous vertebral hemangioma, causing collapse of the vertebral body. This responds to the concept of locus minoris resistentia, in this context referring to organs or regions that for some reason are more vulnerable than others. In this case, the wide vascular spaces and increased blood supply of the hemangioma may have facilitated implantation of malignant cells.

The typical appearance of coarse trabeculae (polka dot) of the original hemangioma, plus satisfaction of search were the reasons for the initial misdiagnosis of invasive hemangioma. The findings in the plain films of the chest were decisive to reconsider the diagnosis, leading to a review of the cross-sectional studies and the correct diagnosis.

Follow Dr. Pepe’s advice:

1. Remember Dr. Pepe’s words of wisdom (Diploma case 132): Don’t let one abnormal finding keep you from looking for another

2. Sometimes, plain films have an important role in the diagnosis.