Overview and Challenges of Bronchiolar Disorders.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Review)

Bronchiolar abnormalities are common and can occur in conditions that affect either the large airways or the more distal parenchyma. In this review, we focus on the diagnosis and management of primary bronchiolar disorders, or conditions in which bronchiolitis is the predominant pathologic process, including constrictive bronchiolitis, follicular bronchiolitis, acute bronchiolitis, respiratory bronchiolitis, and diffuse panbronchiolitis. Due to the nature of abnormalities in the small airway, clinical and physiological changes in bronchiolitis can be subtle, making diagnosis challenging. Primary bronchiolar disorders frequently present with progressive dyspnea and cough that can be out of proportion to imaging and physiologic studies. Pulmonary function tests may be normal, impaired in an obstructive, restrictive, or mixed pattern, or have an isolated decrease in diffusion capacity. High-resolution computed tomography scan is an important diagnostic tool that may demonstrate one or more of the following three patterns: 1) solid centrilobular nodules, often with linear branching opacities (i.e., "tree-in-bud" pattern); 2) ill-defined ground glass centrilobular nodules; and 3) mosaic attenuation on inspiratory images that is accentuated on expiratory images, consistent with geographic air trapping. Bronchiolitis is often missed on standard transbronchial lung biopsies, as the areas of small airway involvement can be patchy. Fortunately, many patients can be diagnosed with a combination of clinical suspicion, inspiratory and expiratory high-resolution computed tomography scans, and pulmonary function testing. Joint consultation of clinicians with both radiologists and pathologists (in cases where histopathology is pursued) is critical to appropriately assess the clinical-radiographic-pathologic context in each individual patient.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Swaminathan, AC; Carney, JM; Tailor, TD; Palmer, SM

Published Date

  • March 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 17 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 253 - 263

PubMed ID

  • 31860801

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2325-6621

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201907-569CME


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States