Granulomas and giant cells in hypersensitivity pneumonitis

Mathieu C. Castonguay, Jay H. Ryu, Eunhee S. Yi, Henry D. Tazelaar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Summary Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) is an immunologically mediated form of diffuse lung disease, with histopathologic features that include cellular bronchiolitis, interstitial pneumonia, poorly formed granulomas, isolated multinucleated giant cells (MNGCs), organizing pneumonia, and interstitial fibrosis. This study describes the clinical and histopathologic findings in a retrospective series of 40 consecutive patients diagnosed with HP at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, between 1997 and 2011. Because the literature indicates that granulomas and MNGCs are located in the interstitium, particular attention was given to their distribution. Of the 40 patients, 33 underwent surgical lung biopsy and 7 underwent lung transplantation. Thirty-eight (95%) patients had interstitial pneumonia; 37 (93%), cellular bronchiolitis; 32 (80%), nonnecrotizing granulomas; 31 (78%), isolated MNGCs; 34 (85%) organizing pneumonia, and 31 (78%); interstitial fibrosis. In 27 cases, the granulomas were within airspaces; and in 26, they were interstitial. In 25 cases, MNGCs were within airspaces; and in 24, they were interstitial. In 3 (8%) cases, both granulomas and MNGCs were seen only within airspaces. Interstitial fibrosis was centrilobular in 22 cases, resembled usual interstitial pneumonia in 18 cases, and resembled nonspecific interstitial pneumonia in 11 cases. The "classic triad" of bronchiolitis, interstitial pneumonia, and granulomas was seen in 29 (73%) cases and was most frequent in biopsy than explant specimens (P =.004). This study confirms that granulomas and MNGCs are not confined to the pulmonary interstitium in HP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)607-613
Number of pages7
JournalHuman Pathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Giant cells
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  • Pulmonary granulomas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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