Dr. Pepe’s Diploma Casebook 159 – SOLVED

Dear Friends,

Today I am presenting another “Art of interpretation” case. As I have mentioned before, interpreting a chest radiograph may be a difficult task and analyzing the diagnostic steps helps to a correct evaluation of the findings.

Radiographs belong to a 57-year-old woman with cough and pain in the chest.

1. Pulmonary mass
2. Mediastinal mass
3. Pleural mass
4. Any 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

PA radiograph shows an ill-defined right perihilar and upper lung opacity( A, asterisk). The right hemidiaphragm is elevated. There is an obvious elevation of the right hilum. (A, red arrow).

Lateral view shows a well-defined retro-sternal triangular opacity (B, white arrows) with a rounded convex appearance at the level of the hilum (B, red arrow).

Analysis of relevant findings:

PA chest

1. Elevation of right hilum
2. Hazy opacity in right upper lung
3. Elevated right hemidiaphragm

Lateral chest

1. Well-defined retro-sternal triangular opacity with a bulge in the middle

The clue to the diagnosis lies in discovering the elevation of the right hilum in the PA view. Neither a mediastinal nor a pleural mass should displace the hilum upwards. Therefore, the correct answer is: 1. Pulmonary mass.

The elevated right hilum suggests loss of volume of RUL, supported by the haziness of upper lung and elevation of the hemidiaphragm.

The lateral view provides significant information: the retro-sternal triangular opacity is highly suspicious of RUL collapse, limited superiorly by the displaced major fissure and inferiorly by the minor fissure. The central bulge suggests a mass as the cause of the collapse.


Enhanced coronal CT confirms the central mass (A, arrow) and the collapsed RUL (A, red arrow). Sagittal view shows the displaced major fissure (B, arrow). Axial view demonstrates the obstructed RUL bronchus (C, arrow)

Final diagnosis: Carcinoma of RUL bronchus with atypical collapse of RUL

Recognizing lobar collapses in the chest radiograph is important because most of them are caused by endobronchial carcinoma.
RUL collapse has a distinctive appearance which is easily identified in the PA radiograph (see Diploma 58). Occasionally the presentation is atypical and may be unrecognized, causing an unnecessary delay in the diagnosis. In these cases it is important to know the main signs that will suggest the correct diagnosis (see Diploma 141).
Elevation of the right hilum, as in the present case, is practically a constant sign in RUL collapse. Detecting a high hilum is an important clue to suspect this diagnosis.

To emphasize the importance of an elevated hilum as a sign of atypical RUL collapse, I am showing a second case. Patient is a 77 y.o. man with right shoulder pain.

PA radiograph shows an apparent air-filled cavity in the right upper lung. The clue to the diagnosis lies in recognizing the elevation of the right hilum (A, arrow), pointing to a RUL collapse.
Lateral view confirms the suspicion of RUL collapse confined between the elevated minor fissure (B, arrow) and the anteriorly displaced major fissure (B, red arrow).

Comparison with a previous film confirms the typical findings of aerated RUL collapse, with elevation of the minor fissure (C, arrow) and the right hilum (C, red arrow). The appearance of the current film is due to an apical loculated pneumothorax (D, asterisk) which has displaced medially the outer wall of the RUL lobe.

Previous CT taken three years earlier confirms collapse of RUL lobe with open bronchus (E, arrow), bronchiectasis in the lateral view and marked displacement of the fissures (F, arrows). Note the increased apical fat (E, asterisk) suggestive of a chronic process.

Final diagnosis: Chronic inflammatory collapse of RUL with loculated apical pneumothorax

Follow Dr. Pepe’s advice:

1. Detecting an elevated right hilum is an excellent clue to suspect an atypical presentation of RUL collapse

Dr. Pepe’s Diploma Casebook – The art of interpretation – CASE 146 – SOLVED

Dear Friends,

Today I am presenting another “Art of interpretation case”, from last August.
Radiographs belong to a 22-year-old Spanish national with fever and dry cough for the last seven days. He had visited South Korea during the month of July. Chest radiographs read as normal by the Emergency Room physician.
What do you see?

More images will be shown on Wednesday.

Click here to see the images shown on Monday

Dear Friends,
showing several images of the enhanced CT.

What do you see?

Click here to see the new images

Click here to see the answer

Findings: PA radiograph shows convexity of the aortopulmonary window (A, white arrow) and increased opacity of the left hilum (A, red arrow). The lateral view shows a faint opacity projected over the middle third of the thoracic spine (B, circle) that was overlooked in the initial reading.
The convexity of the APW suggested mediastinal lymphadenopathy, and CT was performed.

Coronal enhanced CT shows an enlarged lymph node in the APW (A, arrow). Axial CT depicts enlarged lymph nodes in the left hilum (B, circle). Lung window demonstrates air-space disease in the apical segment of the LLL (C, arrow), which explains the posterior faint opacity in the lateral view.

Summary of CT findings:

– Unilateral enlarged hilar lymph nodes
– Lymph node in APW
– Air-space disease in the apical segment of LLL

The most significant finding is the presence of unilateral hilar lymph nodes which have a limited differential diagnosis: in the great majority of patients they are due either to lung carcinoma or active tuberculosis. As this particular patient is 27 y.o., carcinoma is unlikely. Therefore, our tentative diagnosis should be active TB, which is also supported by disease in the apical segment of the LLL, a common location for TB.

The patient was placed in isolation, bronchoscopy was performed, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis was found in the aspirate.

Final diagnosis: active tuberculosis


Active pulmonary tuberculosis is not uncommon, and the chest radiograph plays an important role in its detection. Findings that help to suspect TB in the plain film are:

Location of the parenchymal disease. Involvement of the apices or the apical segment of either lower lobe should raise the possibility of a tuberculous infiltrate, although TB can affect any area of the lung.

Cavitation. The presence of cavities within a pulmonary infiltrate suggest tuberculosis or necrotic pneumonia.

Visible lymphadenopathies. Tuberculous lymph nodes are usually unilateral and located in the hilum and homolateral mediastinum. In about one third of patients they are bilateral. In such cases, lymphoma and sarcoidosis, among others, should also be considered.

CT refines these parameters by discovering cavitation or lymphadenopathy that is not evident in the plain film. The presence of low-attenuation lymph nodes due to caseous necrosis is highly suggestive of TB, although it is not pathognomonic. Other conditions can also show these features. However, normal-density lymph nodes do not exclude TB, as was seen in the present case.

Below, I show a few nice images of active TB in which low-attenuation lymph nodes
suggested the correct diagnosis.


23-year-old woman with cough and low-grade fever. Chest radiographs shows air-space disease in the RLL (A and B, white arrows). There is obvious widening of the right paratracheal line (A, red arrow), indicating mediastinal lymphadenopathy.

Enhanced axial CT confirms the RLL disease which is non-specific (C, arrow). No cavitations are visible. The mediastinal window shows numerous enlarged lymph nodes, some with a hypodense center (D and E, arrows) and others with peripheral enhancement (ring sign) (F, arrows).

Abdominal CT also shows enlarged mesenteric lymph nodes with the ring sign (G and H, circles).

It is interesting to note that lower lobe TB occurs in only 5% of patients. In this particular case the diagnosis of TB was suggested by the CT appearance of the affected lymph nodes. Mycobacterium tuberculosis was recovered from sputum.

Final diagnosis: active TB

Dr. Pepe’s teaching points:

1. Think of TB in unilateral hilar adenopathy in a young person.

2. Low-density lymph nodes on CT are highly suggestive of active TB, although normal-density nodes do not exclude it.

Dr. Pepe’s Diploma Casebook: CASE 145 – Art of interpretation – SOLVED!

Dear Friends,

as I told you last week, my plan for September is to show interesting cases seen during this summer.

Today I have prepared an Art of Interpretation case that I saw in July. Radiographs belong to a 90-year-old man with cardiac arrhythmia.

Most likely diagnosis:
1. Aortic aneurysm
2. Duplication cyst
3. Thymic tumor
4. Any of the above

Leave your thoughts in the comments and come back on Friday to see the answer!

Click here to see the answer:

Findings: PA and lateral radiographs show a left superior middle mediastinal mass adjacent to the aortic knob (A and B, white arrows). Healed fractures of the right clavicle and second left rib are visible (A, red arrows). Pacemaker in the left hemithorax.

Analysis of relevant findings:

1. Left middle mediastinal mass adjacent to the aortic knob
2. Old fracture right clavicle
3. Old fracture second left rib

Summing up the findings: Although the appearance of the mediastinal mass is non-specific, the proximity to the aortic arch raises the possibility of an aortic aneurysm.
The bone fractures indicate previous trauma. Especially relevant is the fractured second rib. The first and second ribs are well protected by the thoracic cage and breaking either of them needs a strong impact, significant enough to shear the thoracic aorta and lead to pseudoaneurysm formation.

Therefore, our tentative diagnosis should be traumatic pseudoaneurysm of aorta, followed by a request for enhanced CT to confirm the diagnosis.


Enhanced CT confirms a partially thrombosed aneurysm with a connection to the inferior aspect of the aortic arch (A-C, red arrows). On questioning, the patient mentioned an automobile accident fifteen years earlier. Because of his age, it was decided to control the aneurysm in six months’ time.

Final diagnosis: traumatic aortic pseudoaneurysm

Rupture of the thoracic aorta is not uncommon in severe blunt trauma, usually after high impact accidents or falls from a height of more than three meters (see case 1, below). About 85% of affected patients die immediately. The remaining 15% may survive if they arrive to the hospital in time to be treated.

A small percentage of cases are overlooked and patients survive without treatment. Over time a pseudoaneurysm develops at the point of rupture, most commonly the aortic arch.
About half these cases are discovered in routine chest examinations because of the typical location of the pseudoaneurysm around the aortic arch. Another diagnostic tip is that the patients are usually younger than patients with atherosclerotic aneurysms (see Case 2).

Discovering signs of previous trauma facilitates the diagnosis, especially when the first or second ribs are affected. After a history of severe trauma is elicited, the diagnosis is confirmed with enhanced CT. The pseudoaneurysm is usually located in the inferior aspect of the aortic arch, distal to the origin of the left subclavian artery.

Traumatic aortic pseudoaneurysms are infrequent, but I have seen several cases during my professional life. I am showing two representative cases to familiarize you with their radiographic appearance.


Chest radiographs of a 75-year-old male tourist with chest pain . A peripherally calcified mediastinal mass is projected over the aortic knob in the PA radiograph (A, arrow). The lateral view shows that the mass arises from the inferior aspect of the aortic arch (B, arrow).

Coronal and sagittal enhanced CT images demonstrate a calcified aneurysm arising from the inferior aspect of the aortic arch (C and D, arrows), distal to the origin of the left subclavian artery (E, circle). On questioning, the patient mentioned surviving a helicopter crash six years earlier. A diagnosis of traumatic pseudoaneurysm was made. The patient returned to his country of origin and was lost to follow-up.


42-year-old man with vague chest symptoms. A chest radiograph from another center (unavailable) showed a mediastinal mass with peripheral calcification. CT scout view yields the same finding (A, arrow).

Enhanced CT shows a large calcified aneurysm distal to the origin of the left subclavian artery (B and C, arrows). The rest of the aorta is normal. The patient had experienced an automobile accident ten years earlier. Traumatic pseudoaneurysm was proven at surgery.

Dr. Pepe’s teaching points:

Tips to suspect a traumatic aortic pseudoaneurysm in the chest radiograph:

1. Mediastinal mass around the aortic arch

2. Signs of previous trauma, especially fractures of the first or second ribs.

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!

Continue reading “Dr. Pepe’s Diploma Casebook: The art of interpretation: CASE 134 – SOLVED”