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Lung diseases

Lung calcification

06/22/2000

Question:

I am a 20 yr old female diagnosed with cytomegalovirus about a month ago but I`ve had the disease since september. Symptoms not improving doctor odered a CT with contrast. Other than seeing swollen lymph nodes throughout my body radiologist reported a "calcification on one lung" and I am getting ready to have the 3-month follow up CT scan in a couple of weeks. What does a "calcification" mean? Will it go away? I have asthma and get bronchitis once in a while. Any information would help. Thanks.

Answer:

Calcification means that there is calcium in the lesion in question. In your case, this most likely means that one or more of the lymph nodes in your lung have some calcium in them, making them appear dense (like bone) on the CT scan. Calcification can occur for many reasons, but is most often associated with chronic (ie, longstanding) conditions that are usually benign. In young individuals, calcified lymph nodes are most often seen as a result of fungal infections such as histoplasmosis. Histoplasmosis is a fungus that exists in the soil. Nearly 100% of people who live in the Ohio River Valley will have evidence of old histoplasmosis infections, such as calcified lymph nodes, if one cares to look. Fortunately, these chronic fungal infections are usually self-limited and of no consequence, unless one also happens to have an immunodeficiency like AIDS or cancer.

I`m not aware of CMV causing calcified lymph nodes. Obviously I can`t comment on the specifics of the CT scan without actually seeing it. However, I suspect that the purpose of the repeat CT scan is probably just to be certain that nothing else is going on regarding the lymph nodes; that is, that their appearance does not change over time. Once calcification occurs, it does not go away, but as stated above it is usually of no clinical significance, provided appropriate followup (such as you appear to be getting) is done.

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Response by:

Stuart Green, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine and Pathobiology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati