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Ann Diagn Pathol. 1998 Oct;2(5):321-34.

Constrictive (obliterative) bronchiolitis: diagnosis, etiology, and a critical review of the literature.

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1
Department of Pathology and Radiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.

Abstract

Constrictive bronchiolitis (CB) (or obliterative bronchiolitis) designates inflammation and fibrosis occurring predominantly in the walls and contiguous tissues of membranous and respiratory bronchioles, with resultant narrowing of their lumens. It differs from bronchiolitis obliterans-organizing pneumonia in its histopathology and clinical course. Most cases of CB occur in the setting of organ transplants, particularly lung and heart-lung transplants, but also in bone marrow transplants. Other bona fide cases are rare: infection, particularly viral infection, appears to be a well-documented precursor to CB in children, but not in immunocompetent adults. Constrictive bronchiolitis also has been reported in the course of rheumatoid arthritis, in certain other autoimmune diseases such as pemphigus vulgaris, after inhalation of toxic gases such as nitrogen oxide, after ingestion of certain drugs or medicinal agents such as Sauropus androgynous, and as a cryptogenic illness. Recent reports suggest that CB, as defined by clinical criteria (that is, bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome), is very common in lung allograft recipients who survive more than 5 years and, although it is associated with significant mortality, it also can be clinically stable. Furthermore, with the current practice of close monitoring of these patients, it appears that CB may now be diagnosed at an earlier stage, at which resolution, or at least stabilization of progression, is possible. A histopathologic diagnosis of CB in lung transplant and other patients may be difficult to make due to the patchy distribution of lesions, the technical difficulty in obtaining tissue in late lesions with extensive fibrosis, and the failure to recognize lesions. With regard to the last of these, in early stages of disease, CB may be subtle and easily missed in routine hematoxylin-eosin-stained specimens, while in advanced stages the disease may be equally difficult to diagnose if the patchy scarring in the lung is interpreted as nonspecific. The relative loss of bronchioles and the relationship of the scars to contiguous arteries should signal the need for elastic stains to look for the residual elastica of the bronchioles amidst the foci of fibrosis. Increasingly, clinical grounds, including pulmonary functions studies and high-resolution computed tomography findings, are proving to be relatively sensitive methods of detecting CB. Finally, the progressive airway destruction in chronic transplantation rejection appears to be a T-cell-mediated process. The "active" form of constrictive bronchiolitis, with attendant lymphocytic inflammation of the airways, likely precedes the "inactive" or scarred form of constrictive bronchiolitis.

PMID:
9845757
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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