Radiology Teaching Files > Case 462652

Contributed by: Safwan Halabi, Radiologist, Henry Ford Health System, Michigan, USA.
Patient: 45 year old female
History: Progressive shortness of breath

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- Bilateral symmetric patchy peribronchovascular opacities, multiple patchy
nodular opacities, and slightly dilated bronchi are greatest in the upper

CXR (s/p lung bx)
- Right apical pneumothorax
- Bilateral patchy opacities with predominance in the upper lungs

- Sarcoidosis

Diagnosis: Langerhans' cell histiocytosis (Histiocytosis X), pathology proven

Langerhans' cell histiocytosis, pulmonary involvement

Granulomata are present in the interstitium, in the perivascular and peribronchial tissue, and in the septa beneath the pleura. Later, the alveolar walls become involved, with pulmonary fibrosis.

Chest radiographs may be normal, or may show diffuse interstitial disease. This is initially seen as a reticulonodular pattern, with upper lobe involvement being at least equal to lower lobe involvement. CT scanning may show early changes with a ground glass appearance of the parenchyma. The radiographic appearances may become cystic, and eventually a "honeycomb-lung" may develop. Pneumatoceles may be seen, and pneumothorax may complicate the condition.

The chest radiograph may also show an enlarged thymus, which may contain cysts or punctate calcification. Mediastinal and hilar lymphadenopathy may also be seen.


Langerhans' cell histiocytosis (Paul Langerhans, 1847-1888, German pathologist)

This is a group of disorders involving histiocytic proliferation with Langerhans' cells in the cytoplasm of these cells, with a clinical course ranging from benign to aggressive. There are several classifications. Originally described as three conditions, benign eosinophilic granuloma, Hand Schuller Christian disease, and the more systemic involvement of Letterer Siwe disease. The condition is now termed Langerhans' cell histiocytosis, and is classified on a histological basis:

- Class 1 Langerhans' histiocytosis
- Class 2 Histiocytosis (derived from mononuclear cells other than - Langerhans' cells)
- Class 3 Malignant histiocytic disorders. The condition is now termed Langerhans' cell histiocytosis.

Presentation of the benign form is as solitary or multiple bone lesions, particularly of the skull and long bones, presenting with pain or a mass. Other flat bones, particularly the pelvis and the femur may also be involved. Soft tissue involvement without bony involvement also occurs. Orbital infiltration presents with exophthalmos and mandibular lesions - loosening of the teeth, causing a floating teeth appearance. Petrous bone infiltration may lead to discharge from the ear. Pulmonary involvement produces cough and dyspnoea. Thymic involvement presents as an anterior mediastinal mass which may contain calcification. Disseminated Langerhans' cell histiocytosis, Letterer Siwe disease, presents as fever or failure to thrive. Lung, liver and bone involvement is associated with high mortality, and is seen particularly in the younger age group. Hepatosplenomegaly, which may be confirmed by ultrasound, occurs sometimes with ascites. Splenomegaly is usually associated with bone marrow involvement or is enlarged due to infiltration by Langerhans' cells secondary to portal hypertension in liver disease. Solitary bone lesion or single system involvement occurs in general in older children. Diabetes insipidus may occur owing to involvement of the pituitary gland. Involvement of the cranial vault may rarely present as dysarthria and nystagmus due to extension to the cerebellum.

If the lungs are involved the radiographs will initially show widespread reticulonodular change and later a honeycomb pattern due to fibrosis and bullae. A mediastinal mass, due to thymic involvement, may covertly be the initial presentation. The mass often contains calcification. These usually occur in the younger age group. The older child usually presents with skeletal involvement in the skull or long bones. This will show as a lucency in the skull vault with a clearcut margin, often in the so-called geographical distribution. There is usually some soft tissue swelling. Occasionally a sequestrum is seen as a density centrally. In addition to vault lesions there may be involvement of the supraorbital margin and mastoids. Mandibular lesions produce so-called floating teeth with a lytic area surrounding the teeth. In bony lesions there may be central permeative rarefaction with prominent periosteal new bone, which may often be mistaken for chronic infection. In the spine there may be collapse in the vertebral bodies. If focal, it may produce 'vertebra plana' with a plate-like appearance eosinophilic granuloma.

MRI shows the pituitary involvement in patients with diabetes insipidus. CT is rarely needed although can show the bone destruction to better.


- [4/23/04]

- [4/23/04]

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Additional Details:

Case Number: 462652Last Updated: 2011-08-01
Anatomy: Chest   Pathology: Metabolic
Modality: CT, Conventional RadiographAccess Level: Readable by all users
Keywords: histiocytosis langerhans cell x

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