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Lung diseases

Ground glass appearance in lungs.

04/18/2008

Question:

A woman is 43 years of age, she is a smoker. The doctors have found a `glass ground appearance` in her lungs. She suffers from chest pains, fatigue, and her hair has been falling out. The doctors have diagnosed that it is not a thyroid problem. What could she be suffering from? She refuses to have an open lung biopsy until she knows whats wrong.

Answer:

Ground glass infiltrates are usually a sign of inflammation. This can be caused by infections or by interstitial lung disease. Patients who are smokers are susceptible to a form of interstitial lung disease called "desquamative interstitial pneumonitis" that can have ground glass infiltrates. Smokers are also at risk for lung cancer and one type of lung cancer that can present as a ground glass infiltrate is "bronchoalveolar cell carcinoma". The bottom line is that ground glass infiltrates can be caused by many different types of conditions but they are never a normal finding in the lung. If the ground glass infiltrates persist, we usually do a bronchoscopy or a lung biopsy in order to determine their cause.

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Response by:

James N Allen, Jr, MD James N Allen, Jr, MD
Clinical Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University