Home | About us | Editorial Board | Search | Ahead of print | Current Issue | Archives | Instructions | Online submissionContact Us   |  Subscribe   |  Advertise   |  Login  Page layout
Wide layoutNarrow layoutFull screen layout
Lung India Official publication of Indian Chest Society  
  Users Online: 1090   Home Print this page  Email this page Small font size Default font size Increase font size

  Table of Contents    
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 372-373  

Differentiating pulmonary lymphangioleiomyomatosis from pulmonary langerhans cell histiocytosis and Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome

1 Department of Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care, Internal Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, USA
2 Department of Pulmonary Medicine and Tuberculosis, Internal Medicine, Indira Gandhi Medical College, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India

Date of Web Publication25-Oct-2013

Correspondence Address:
Himanshu Bhardwaj
Department of Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care, Internal Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-2113.120611

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Bhardwaj H, Bhardwaj B. Differentiating pulmonary lymphangioleiomyomatosis from pulmonary langerhans cell histiocytosis and Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome. Lung India 2013;30:372-3

How to cite this URL:
Bhardwaj H, Bhardwaj B. Differentiating pulmonary lymphangioleiomyomatosis from pulmonary langerhans cell histiocytosis and Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome. Lung India [serial online] 2013 [cited 2021 Jun 16];30:372-3. Available from: https://www.lungindia.com/text.asp?2013/30/4/372/120611


We read with great interest the pictorial quiz case reported by Singh and Singh [1] describing a patient of pulmonary lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) in association with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) presenting with pneumothorax, cystic lung lesions, and characteristic dermatological findings. The authors have discussed some important causes of cystic lung lesions in the discussion which included pulmonary Langerhans cell histiocytosis (PLCH) with the special mention of 'bizarre' shape of lung cysts seen in this disorder. Through this letter, we want to briefly discuss a patient of PLCH managed in our institute with a specific focus on the salient differences in the radiological and clinical finding in these two disease entities, both of which are considered as important differential diagnoses of cystic lung diseases. We also want to briefly mention one another important and rare genetic cause of cystic lung diseases known as 'Birt-Hogg-Dube (BHD) Syndrome' which shares multiple clinical features with LAM. BHD was not discussed as a differential diagnosis by the authors in the original report.

A 28-year-old Caucasian female with 20 pack year smoking history presented to our chest medicine clinic with 3 months history of nonproductive cough and exertional dyspnea. There was no history of any chronic pulmonary diseases in both paternal and maternal sides of her family. Only significant finding on the physical examination was presence of bibasal expirational crackles on lung auscultation. Pulmonary function tests were normal. Chest radiograph did not show any abnormal findings. We obtained a high resolution computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest which revealed multiple bizarre shaped lung parenchymal cysts mostly involving the upper lobes of the lungs and sparing the bases [Figure 1], Panel A and B]. Based on these characteristic findings a diagnosis of PLCH was made and patient was strongly advised against smoking and was prescribed some over-the-counter cough suppressants for symptomatic relief. Patient successfully quit smoking and over next 1 year her symptom improved greatly.
Figure 1: (Panel A) High resolution computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest showing irregular, bizarre shaped lung parenchymal cysts in bilateral upper lobe. A bilobed cyst in left upper lobe is marked (arrow). (Panel B) Another section of CT scan of the same patient at different anatomic level showing almost clover leaf-shaped cavity (arrow)

Click here to view

PLCH, formally known as histiocytosis X, is a rare interstitial lung disease characterized by abnormal proliferation and accumulation of Langerhans-type histiocytic cells in the lung parenchyma resulting in the formation characteristic cystic and nodular lung parenchymal lesions. This disease mostly occurs in the age group 20-40 years and there's a very strong association with smoking with more than 95% of patients having history of current or past smoking. [2] The exact prevalence and incidence of this disease is unknown because a vast majority of patients remain asymptomatic. The pathogenesis behind the development of PLCH remains largely unknown. Role of smoking induced proliferation of Langerhans cells beneath the epithelium of tracheobronchial tree has been implicated. [3] Some authors have also proposed the role of several inflammatory cytokines, specifically interleukin (IL)-17. [4] Another hypotheses has looked at the association of PLCH and smoking with observation of increased expression of proinflammatory glycoprotein osteopontin in PLCH lesion. [5] Pathologically, PLCH lesions are characterized by abundance of langerhans cells which on electronic microscopy show classic pentalaminar cytoplasmic inclusions also known as Birbeck granules. These cells are positive for S-100 protein and CD1a antigen on immunohistochemial staining. In PLCH, if clinical characteristics are well correlated with imaging findings, disease can be confirmed without lung biopsy. However, this typical finding is relatively uncommon, so in numerous cases lung biopsy is needed for final diagnosis, to exclude other conditions presenting as cystic lung diseases. Around one-third of PLCH patients are asymptomatic at the time of diagnosis and in symptomatic patients, most common symptoms include dyspnea and nonproductive cough. About 15% of patients of PLCH develop spontaneous pneumothorax which can be recurrent like LAM patients.

Radiological findings, specifically high resolution chest CT scan findings are pathognomonic in PLCH and also help in differentiating PLCH from LAM. Majority of PLCH patients have nodules and/or cysts or combination of both on CT scan of the chest. Both PLCH and LAM patients have lung parenchymal cysts, but they are uniform and rather round shaped in LAM, in contrast PLCH cysts are often irregular, bilobed, cloverleaf-shaped, or bizarre shapes [Figure 1], Panel A and B]. Another differentiating feature is the predominance of cysts in the upper and middle lung zones and sparing of lower lung zones and costophrenic areas in PLCH. [6] As mentioned by author, presence of thicker cyst walls and the presence of nodules in the intervening lung parenchyma between the cysts in PLCH is one more radiological differentiating feature.

One more genetic lung disorder known for the presence of cystic lung lesions and recurrent pneumothoraces, just like PLCH and LAM is Birt-Hogg-Dube (BHD) syndrome. It is a rare autosomal dominant genetic disorder caused by germline mutations in FLCN gene on chromosome 17p11.2 which codes for a tumor suppressor protein called folliculin. [7] Described first in 1977 by Birt, Hogg, and Dube; BHD is characterized by combination of skin fibrofolliculomas (hamartoma of the hair follicle), multiple lung cysts, recurrent pneumothoraces, and renal cancers. LAM associated with TSC also shares significant clinical involvement with BHD in the form of presence of skin involvement with angiofibromas and renal involvement with angiomyolipomas, thus making BHD an important differential diagnosis of LAM. Around 25% of carriers of BHD do not have skin lesions and BHD is known to show heterogeneity of penetrance in mutation carriers. Some patients can have isolated skin lesions or isolated lung cyst, or isolated renal tumor. The definite diagnosis is based on DNA testing for FLCN mutation. Some genetic studies have even suggested the role of similar common genetic pathway known as mTOR pathway in the pathogenesis of both LAM and BHD. [8] Few of the differentiating features between these two disorders include, almost exclusive involvement of females only in LAM. Not only LAM associated with TSC, but also LAM without TSC is almost exclusively found in women of child-bearing age. In contrast, BHD can be found in male subjects due to autosomal dominant inheritance, and for this reason, it is very important to carefully investigate family history (for male sex involvement) in the patients of cystic lung diseases. Another contrasting feature between LAM and BHD is the propensity of cystic lung involvement in basilar and peripheral areas in the BHD patients. Occasional chylous pleural effusions seen in LAM only and subpleural lentiform cysts seen in BHD only are few more differentiating features.

In conclusion, we have described PLCH and BHD syndrome as two most important differential diagnoses of LAM. Although all these three clinical disorders share multiple clinical features, characteristic clinical features and radiological findings described above can be very helpful in differentiating one disorder from other, thus avoiding invasive testing.

   References Top

1.Singh A, Singh J. Sudden onset of dyspnea in a woman with skin lesions and lung cysts. Lung India 2013;30:164-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
  Medknow Journal  
2.Suri HS, Yi ES, Nowakowski GS, Vassallo R. Pulmonary langerhans cell histiocytosis. Orphanet J Rare Dis 2012;7:16.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Vermaelen K, Pauwels R. Pulmonary dendritic cells. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2005;172:530-51.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Coury F, Annels N, Rivollier A, Olsson S, Santoro A, Speziani C, et al. Langerhans cell histiocytosis reveals a new IL-17A-dependent pathway of dendritic cell fusion. Nat Med 2008;14:81-7.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Allen CE, Li L, Peters TL, Leung HC, Yu A, Man TK, et al. Cell-specific gene expression in Langerhans cell histiocytosis lesions reveal a distinct profile compared with epidermal Langerhans cells. J Immunol 2010;184:4557-67.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Seaman DM, Meyer CA, Gilman MD, McCormack FX. Diffuse cystic lung disease at high-resolution CT. AJR Am J Roentgenol 2011;196:1305-11.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Ayo DS, Aughenbaugh GL, Yi ES, Hand JL, Ryu JH. Cystic lung disease in Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome. Chest 2007;132:679-84.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Menko FH, van Steensel MA, Giraud S, Friis-Hansen L, Richard S, Ungari S, et al. European BHD Consortium. Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome: Diagnosis and management. Lancet Oncol 2009;10:1199-206.  Back to cited text no. 8


  [Figure 1]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article
    Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded434    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal