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J Med Case Rep. 2012 Aug 31;6:259. doi: 10.1186/1752-1947-6-259.

Sarcoidosis in a 65-year-old woman presenting with a lung mass and pericardial effusion: a case report.

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1
Department of Thoracic Medicine, Interstitial Lung Disease Unit, University Hospital of Heraklion, Panepistimiou Avenue, Voutes, 71110, Heraklion, Crete, Greece. gmargaritop@yahoo.gr.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Sarcoidosis is a multi-systemic disorder of unknown origin and most commonly affects the lungs. Diagnosis relies on the presence of non-caseating granulomas on histologic specimens. In high-resolution computed tomography, the most characteristic findings are peribronchovascular thickening, perilymphatic nodular distribution, and bilateral hilar adenopathy. Confluent nodular opacities or large masses are rare manifestations of the disease. It is well recognized that sarcoidosis can mimic infectious, malignant, and granulomatous conditions. Here, we report a case with a high initial index of suspicion for lung malignancy in terms of clinical, lung imaging, and endoscopic findings.

CASE PRESENTATION:

A 65-year-old Caucasian woman, lifelong non-smoker with an unremarkable medical history, presented with a 10-month history of progressive breathlessness, dry cough, fatigue, arthralgias, and mild weight loss. The only significant clinical finding was bilateral enlargement of auxiliary lymph nodes. High-resolution computed tomography revealed a soft tissue density mass at the right hilum which was surrounding and narrowing airways and vascular components, nodules with vascular distribution, enlarged mediastinal lymph nodes, and pericardial effusion. Our patient underwent a bronchoscopy, which revealed the presence of submucosal infiltration and narrowing of the right upper bronchus. Endobronchial biopsies showed non-caseating granulomas. As local sarcoid reactions with non-caseating granulomas can be observed near tumors, our patient underwent video-assisted thoracoscopy and surgical removal of an auxiliary lymph node, both of which confirmed the presence of non-caseating granulomas and the diagnosis of sarcoidosis. She was treated with steroids with improvement of clinical and imaging findings. However, while on a maintenance dose, she presented with a pleural effusion, which, after the diagnostic work-up, proved to be sarcoidosis-related. Treatment with initially high doses of steroids plus a steroid-sparing agent led to resolution of the effusion.

CONCLUSIONS:

We report a case with a high initial index of suspicion for lung malignancy. Clinicians should always be aware that sarcoidosis enters the differential diagnosis of patients presenting with a lung mass that encases and narrows bronchial and vascular structures with associated pericardial effusion. Rarely, pleural effusion can be the presenting symptom of disease relapse despite maintenance treatment.

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