Clinico-radiologic Features of Lung Disease Associated With Aspiration Identified on Lung Biopsy

Alexander J. Ryu, Patrick J. Navin, Xiaowen Hu, Eunhee S. Yi, Thomas E. Hartman, Jay H. Ryu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Aspiration-related lung diseases are commonly diagnosed presumptively based on the clinical context and radiologic findings. Limited data exist on the spectrum of clinico-radiologic presentations associated with aspiration. Methods: This study reviewed all cases of aspiration identified on lung biopsy encountered at the Mayo Clinic between 2003 and 2017. Demographic and clinical features, including risk factors for aspiration, diagnoses suspected prior to biopsy, imaging findings, and microbiologic data, were analyzed. Results: A total of 52 consecutive adult cases of aspiration identified on lung biopsy (histologic presence of food or other particulate matter) were included; patients’ median age was 59 years (range, 22 to 79 years), 38% were women, and there were five lung transplant recipients. Of these, 63% were diagnosed according to results of surgical biopsy (including four cases of lobectomy) and 37% according to results of transbronchial biopsy. Aspiration was clinically suspected prior to biopsy in 35% of the subjects. Ninety percent of subjects had at least one identifiable risk factor for aspiration; gastroesophageal reflux disease was the most common (62%), followed by a structurally abnormal esophagogastric tract and the use of consciousness-impairing medications. Only 27% of patients reported dysphagia or choking. Chest CT imaging revealed a variety of parenchymal patterns, including bronchiolitis (42%), patchy consolidation (19%), and mass (15%). Of 25 patients undergoing a video-swallow evaluation, 14 (56%) had abnormal results with laryngeal penetration with or without aspiration. Microbial cultures obtained in 21 lung biopsy specimens yielded no pathogens. Conclusions: Aspiration can occur in the absence of subjective or demonstrable swallowing difficulties and manifest a broad spectrum of clinico-radiologic presentations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1160-1166
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • aspiration pneumonia
  • bronchiolitis
  • gastroesophageal reflux
  • pneumonitis
  • respiratory aspiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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