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Thorax. 1993 Apr;48(4):334-8.

Accuracy of the typical computed tomographic appearances of fibrosing alveolitis.

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Department of Radiology, Royal Brompton National Heart and Lung Hospital, London.



Open lung biopsy is often performed to confirm the diagnosis in patients with suspected fibrosing alveolitis. The superior sensitivity and specificity of high resolution computed tomography (CT) over chest radiography in various diffuse lung diseases suggest that the characteristic appearance of fibrosing alveolitis on high resolution CT might render biopsy confirmation unnecessary.


The chest radiographs and high resolution CT scans of 86 patients (41 with fibrosing alveolitis and 45 with various other diffuse lung diseases) were examined individually and independently by two observers. No clinical information was given and the observers gave a level of confidence when the diagnosis was thought to be fibrosing alveolitis.


The observers correctly and confidently discriminated between fibrosing alveolitis and other diffuse lung diseases on high resolution CT with an accuracy of 88% and on chest radiography with an accuracy of 76%. The false negative rate for fibrosing alveolitis diminished from 29% on chest radiography to 11% on high resolution CT. The false positive rate on chest radiography was 19% and on high resolution CT 13%; the false positive diagnoses on CT were the result of a few conditions (extrinsic allergic alveolitis, sarcoidosis, cryptogenic organising pneumonia, and pulmonary eosinophilia) which mimicked some of the CT features of fibrosing alveolitis. The superficial similarity of the CT patterns of these conditions are discussed.


High resolution CT is superior to chest radiography in establishing the diagnosis of fibrosing alveolitis and the typical CT appearances are virtually pathognomonic. The diagnostic advantages of CT over chest radiography should further reduce the need for open lung biopsy in this condition.

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