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Thoracic Lymph Node Enlargement in Usual Interstitial Pneumonitis and Nonspecific-interstitial Pneumonitis: Prevalence, Correlation With Disease Activity and Temporal Evolution

Attili, Anil K. FRCR*; Kazerooni, Ella A. MD*; Gross, Barry H. MD*; Flaherty, Kevin R. MD; Martinez, Fernando J. MD

doi: 10.1097/01.rti.0000213562.55914.9a
Original Articles

Purpose  To evaluate the prevalence of thoracic lymph node enlargement (LNE) in usual (UIP) and nonspecific (NSIP) interstitial pneumonitis, change in LNE over time, and if LNE is related to disease activity.

Methods and Materials  High-resolution CT scans (HRCT) in 20 patients each with UIP and NSIP were retrospectively reviewed. Two HRCT scans were reviewed for each patient, at diagnosis and a mean of 1±0.7 years later. Two thoracic radiologists independently recorded the location and size of thoracic lymph nodes (LNs) >10-mm in short-axis diameter, using the American Thoracic Society lymph node mapping scheme. HRCT disease severity was scored for ground glass opacity and fibrosis. The number and size of enlarged LN stations were compared with HRCT scores.

Results  LNE was found on 44 HRCT examinations (21 baseline prevalence 52.5%, 23 follow-up, prevalence 57.5%), most common in the low right paratracheal (38%) and subcarinal (36%) regions. There was no significant difference in LN size or number of enlarged LN stations between baseline and follow-up CT. LNE prevalence was not different on baseline CT (P=0.34) follow-up CT (P=0.11) between UIP and NSIP patients. The mean size of the largest enlarged LN was 1.36 cm (1 to 2.1 cm) at baseline and 1.43 cm (1 to 1.9 cm) on follow-up CT. Mean CT ground glass and fibrosis scores were 1.98 and 1.6 when LNE was present, and 1.34 and 1.03 when absent (P=0.008 and 0.003, respectively). The number and maximum size of enlarged LNs did not correlate with CT ground glass or fibrosis scores. Five patients who developed LNE between baseline and follow-up CT examinations had a greater increase in CT fibrosis scores than patients whose LNE status did not change (P=0.004); CT ground glass scores were not significantly different. There was a trend for UIP patients to progress from absence of LNE to presence of LNE (4/20 patients or 20%).

Conclusions  Intrathoracic LNE is common in both UIP and NSIP, and becomes increasingly prevalent in UIP patients over time. LNE is more prevalent with more severe lung disease. An increase in LNE over time is associated with the progression of fibrosis, and should not raise concern for co-existing infection or malignancy, in the absence of other clinical findings that would suggest this.

*Division of Thoracic Radiology, Department of Radiology

Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI

Reprints: Anil K. Attili, FRCR, Department of Radiology, University of Michigan Medical Center, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0326 (e-mail:

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.