Pulmonary Lymphoid Hyperplasia and Lymphoid Interstitial Pneumonia (Lymphocytic Interstitial Pneumonia)

Pulmonary Lymphoid Hyperplasia (Follicular Bronchiolitis)

Etiology, Prevalence, and Epidemiology

Pulmonary lymphoid hyperplasia, also known as follicular bronchiolitis or hyperplasia of bronchus-associated lymphoid tissue, is a benign condition characterized histologically by the presence of polyclonal lymphoid aggregates along the bifurcation of the bronchioles and along the pulmonary lymphatics and is mainly differentiated from lymphocytic interstitial pneumonia (LIP) by its typical distribution limited mainly to the airways. It is seen most commonly in association with connective tissue disease, particularly rheumatoid arthritis; immunodeficiency, particularly acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) (usually in children); hypersensitivity disorders; and as a nonspecific response in patients with airway infection, airway obstruction, or bronchiectasis.

Clinical Presentation

Pulmonary lymphoid hyperplasia may occur in children and adults (age range, 1.5–77 years). The most common presenting symptoms are progressive shortness of breath and cough. Other manifestations include fever, recurrent pneumonia, and weight loss.


Pulmonary lymphoid hyperplasia is characterized histologically by the presence of discrete foci of hyperplastic lymphoid tissue, often associated with germinal centers, along the bronchovascular bundles ( Figs. 23.1 and 23.2 ). Hyperplastic lymphoid tissue also may be present within interlobular septa and visceral pleura.

Fig. 23.1

Pulmonary lymphoid hyperplasia in a patient with rheumatoid arthritis: pathologic findings. Low-power view shows hyperplastic lymphoid follicles (arrows) along the bronchovascular bundles.

(Courtesy Dr. John English, Department of Pathology, Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver, Canada.)

Fig. 23.2

Pulmonary lymphoid hyperplasia: pathologic findings. Histologic specimen shows extensive lymphoid hyperplasia with lymphoid nodules, including lymphoid follicles, adjacent to small airways.

(Courtesy Dr. William D. Travis, Department of Pathology, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York.)

Manifestations of the Disease


The chest radiograph may be normal or show bilateral reticular or reticulonodular opacities ( Fig. 23.3 ).

Fig. 23.3

Pulmonary lymphoid hyperplasia in rheumatoid arthritis. (A) View of the right lung from posteroanterior chest radiograph shows ill-defined nodular opacities. A similar pattern was present in the left lung. (B) High-resolution CT scan targeted to the right lung shows sharply defined peribronchovascular nodular opacities (arrows) in the right upper lobe.

(From Müller NL, Fraser RS, Colman NC, et al. Radiologic Diagnosis of Diseases of the Chest. Philadelphia: Saunders; 2001.)

Computed Tomography

The main high-resolution computed tomography (CT) findings consist of bilateral centrilobular and peribronchial nodules. Most nodules measure less than 3 mm in diameter. Nodules 3 to 12 mm in diameter are present in approximately 50% of patients, and patchy ground-glass opacities are present in approximately 75% of patients; small foci of consolidation may be seen in some patients (see Fig. 23.3 ). The nodules may be diffuse or involve mainly the lower lung zones. The nodules reflect the predominant histologic findings of peribronchiolar inflammation and coalescent germinal centers. Less common manifestations include mild interlobular septal thickening and bronchial dilation.

Differential Diagnosis

Centrilobular nodules are seen in a variety of diseases that affect predominantly the bronchioles or peribronchiolar interstitium. Common causes include hypersensitivity pneumonitis, respiratory bronchiolitis, and infectious bronchiolitis. Pulmonary lymphoid hyperplasia requires lung biopsy for definitive diagnosis.

Synopsis of Treatment Options

Patients with pulmonary lymphoid hyperplasia usually have a good prognosis. Treatment may be directed at the underlying disease or may consist of steroids or azathioprine.

Key Points: Pulmonary Lymphoid Hyperplasia

  • Pulmonary lymphoid hyperplasia or follicular bronchiolitis is a benign condition characterized by the presence of polyclonal lymphoid aggregates mainly along the bifurcation of the bronchioles.

  • Symptomatic pulmonary lymphoid hyperplasia occurs most commonly in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and immunodeficiency.

  • The chest radiograph may be normal or show bilateral reticular or reticulonodular opacities.

  • The main high-resolution CT finding consists of small bilateral centrilobular and peribronchial nodules.

  • Definitive diagnosis requires surgical lung biopsy. Prognosis is usually favorable.

Lymphoid Interstitial Pneumonia (Lymphocytic Interstitial Pneumonia)

Etiology, Prevalence, and Epidemiology

LIP is a rare condition limited to the lungs and characterized at histology by diffuse infiltration of the alveolar septa by polyclonal lymphocytes. LIP has been considered part of a spectrum of pulmonary lymphoproliferative disorders that range in severity from benign airway-centered cellular aggregates (lymphoid hyperplasia) to malignant lymphomas ; however, immunohistochemical and molecular analyses indicate that the risk of transformation to pulmonary lymphoma is low. Most cases of LIP occur in patients with underlying autoimmune disease or immunodeficiency, most commonly Sjögren syndrome, autoimmune disorders, dysproteinemia, and AIDS; the last-mentioned is particularly seen in children ( Box 23.1 ). When underlying systemic diseases are excluded, a diagnosis of “idiopathic” LIP can be made; however, idiopathic LIP is extremely rare. The clinical and radiologic manifestations of LIP often resemble those of other interstitial pneumonias, and the histologic pattern is that of an interstitial pneumonia that can mimic nonspecific interstitial pneumonia and occasionally hypersensitivity pneumonitis. LIP is part of the updated American Thoracic Society/European Respiratory Society international multidisciplinary consensus classification of idiopathic interstitial pneumonias and is one of the “rare” idiopathic interstitial pneumonias.

Box 23.1

Conditions Associated With Lymphoid Interstitial Pneumonia

Collagen Vascular Disease

  • Sjögren syndrome

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Polymyositis

Autoimmune Diseases

  • Hashimoto thyroiditis

  • Myasthenia gravis

  • Hemolytic anemia

  • Pernicious anemia

  • Autoerythrocyte sensitization syndrome

  • Chronic active hepatitis

  • Celiac sprue

  • Primary biliary cirrhosis

Systemic Immunodeficiency States


  • Common variable immunodeficiency

  • Agammaglobulinemia

Drug Induced

  • Diphenylhydantoin

  • Captopril

Infections (Other Than HIV)

  • Legionella pneumonia

  • Tuberculosis

  • Mycoplasma

  • Chlamydia

  • Epstein-Barr virus infection

  • Human herpesvirus 8


  • Complication of allogeneic bone marrow transplantation

  • Pulmonary alveolar microlithiasis

  • Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis

  • Idiopathic

AIDS, Acquired immune deficiency disease syndrome; HIV, human immunodeficiency virus.

Clinical Presentation

The average age of presentation is 50 to 60 years; women are affected twice as commonly as men. The onset is typically insidious over several years. The main clinical symptoms are cough, dyspnea, and fatigue. Approximately 80% of patients have serum dysproteinemia, most commonly polyclonal hypergammaglobulinemia. Analysis of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid frequently shows lymphocytosis (30%).


LIP is characterized histologically by extensive infiltration of the alveolar septa with polyclonal lymphocytes and variable numbers of plasma cells ( Fig. 23.4 ). Although usually more or less diffuse within the lobule, small nodular foci may be seen as a result of localized proliferation or the formation of germinal centers. Fibrosis is usually absent or mild in severity; occasionally, it may be associated with remodeling and a honeycomb appearance. Airspaces are typically unaffected.

Jul 21, 2019 | Posted by in GENERAL RADIOLOGY | Comments Off on Pulmonary Lymphoid Hyperplasia and Lymphoid Interstitial Pneumonia (Lymphocytic Interstitial Pneumonia)
Premium Wordpress Themes by UFO Themes