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 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’s Diploma Casebook: The art of interpretation: CASE 134 – SOLVED

Dear Friends,

I would like to start 2019 with a new section, called “The art of interpretation”.

Interpreting the chest radiograph is becoming a lost art and I would like to help you improve your skills in this area. With this in mind, I plan to show radiographs with interesting findings and analyze the steps that will lead to a correct evaluation of these findings.

That said, here is the first case: the chest radiographs of a 50-year-old man with liver cirrhosis and bloody vomiting.

What do you see and what would your diagnosis be?

Check the images and come back on Friday to see the answer!

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