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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2013 Jul;201(1):108-16. doi: 10.2214/AJR.12.9374.

Malignancies incidentally detected at lung transplantation: radiologic and pathologic features.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 200 Lothrop St, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.



The purpose of this study was to assess the CT-pathologic features of cancer incidentally detected at lung transplantation.


Our lung transplant registry was reviewed over 7 years for incidental malignancy. Patient demographics, diffuse lung disease, surgical procedure, histopathology, and chest CT were recorded. We correlated lesion size, morphology, multiplicity, and location with surgical and pathology reports and histopathology. Cancers were pathologically staged.


Of 759 lung transplant recipients, cancer was incidentally detected in 22 (2.9%). Half (11 of 258) or 4.3% were detected within the past 2 years. Four patients had a history of treated malignancy, and three had recurrence. Patients had emphysema (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD]) (n = 10), fibrosis (n = 10), or combined COPD and fibrosis (n = 2). Histopathology revealed 13 solitary lung carcinomas, four multifocal adenocarcinomas, three metastases, and two lymphoproliferative diseases. Lung cancer (n = 17) stages were I or II (n = 13), IIIA (n = 2), or IV (n = 2). Metastases (n = 3) and lymphoproliferative disease (n = 2) represented advanced disease. The interval between CT and surgery was a mean of 4 months. CT-positive cases (n = 10) represented lung cancer (n = 9) and posttrans-plantation lymphoproliferative disease (n = 1). Cases with no CT findings of malignancy (n = 12) included lung cancer (n = 8), metastases (n = 3), and lymphoma (n = 1). Ten cases (45%) had other histologically benign CT abnormalities that mimicked cancer.


Detection of incidental malignancy at lung transplantation has increased over the past 2 years. Malignancies were typically stage I or II lung cancers that were occult or indeterminate on CT. Diffuse lung disease, multiple CT abnormalities, and a delay between CT and transplantation compromise the preoperative diagnosis of cancer.

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