this is the last case of the first semester. Will meet again in September.
Wish all of you a very happy summer vacation!
This is a new “art of interpretation” case. Radiographs belong to a 40-year-old woman with mild cough.
1. Chronic TB changes
2. AV malformation
3. Bronchial atresia
4. Any of the above
Click here to see the answer
To refresh your memory, remember that interpreting a chest radiograph involves three basic steps:
1. Gather information. Examine the radiographs carefully and collect all the pertinent information. Remember that overlooking visible findings is the main cause of errors.
2. Analyze the findings. Once collected, the findings should be properly evaluated, and an opinion should be offered.
3. Decide on the next step to reach the diagnosis.
Step 1. Information:
In this patient the lateral view is unremarkable.
All relevant findings are seen in the PA radiograph:
1. Tubular branching opacities in the left upper lung (A, red arrows)
2. Increased lucency of left upper lung (A, circle)
3. Negative finding: the left hilum is in its normal position.
Step 2. Analysis of the findings:
1. Branching tubular opacities have a limited differential diagnosis: either they are pulmonary vessels or mucous-filled dilated bronchi.
2. Hyperlucent lung is a reliable sign of lung disease when complemented with an expiration film to demonstrate air-trapping.
3. The normal position of the left hilum is a negative finding that excludes a fibrotic process in the LUL (I.e. chronic TB), which should cause upper retraction of the hilum.
The combination of a lucent lung lesion with branching tubular opacities points towards an obstructive process of a segmental bronchus with mucous impaction (Obstruction of a lobar bronchus would cause lobar collapse instead of increased lucency).
TUBULAR BRANCHING OPACITIES + INCREASED LUNG LUCENCY = SEGMENTAL BRONCHIAL OBSTRUCTION
Step 3. Decide on the next step
Once segmental bronchial obstruction is suspected in the chest radiograph, the best procedure to confirm it is an enhanced chest CT with expiratory views. In this case it shows attenuated upper lobe vessels (B, arrows) and obvious mucous impactions (B-C, red arrows).
Axial CT with lung window confirms the increased lucency of the apical-posterior segment of the RUL (D, circle)
Inspiration/expiration axial CT views (E-F) confirm segmental air trapping on the left.
Bronchoscopy did not show any inflammatory or tumoral changes in the LUL bronchus. The orifice of the apical-posterior segment was missing.
Final diagnosis: bronchial atresia of apical-posterior segment of LUL
In my experience, bronchial atresia is the most common congenital lung malformation seen in adults. Congenital bronchial atresia results from proximal interruption of a segmental bronchus, which causes overinflation of the affected segment and secondary mucus impaction. Chest radiography shows a focal hyperlucent area with internal mucus impaction. CT depicts these findings to better advantage. Inspiration and expiration views help to confirm air-trapping. In case of doubt, bronchoscopy excludes other causes of bronchial obstruction.
Congenital bronchial atresia may present different appearances, as shown in the following case of one of our X-ray technicians.
30-year-old female, asymptomatic. PA chest radiograph (A) shows hyperlucent left lung with discrete dextroposition of the heart. Expiration film (B) shows air-trapping on the left with deviation of the mediastinum towards the right. Note a thick tubular shadow in the left lower lung (A-B, red arrows), compatible with bronchial impaction. The findings are suggestive of congenital bronchial atresia
Axial and coronal enhanced CT show increased lucency of the posterior segments of LLL with a central mucous impaction (C-D, red arrows)
Decreased vascularity of LLL and central mucous impaction (E-F, red arrows) are better demonstrated in the MIP reconstruction.
Coronal view eleven years later show that air is now present within the dilated bronchus, confirming the diagnosis (G-H, circles) .
Dr. Pepe’s teaching point:
Hyperlucent lung with mucous impaction are the hallmark of congenital bronchial atresia.