Presenting Clinicoradiologic Features, Causes, and Clinical Course of Exogenous Lipoid Pneumonia in Adults

Bilal F. Samhouri, Yasmeen K. Tandon, Thomas E. Hartman, Yohei Harada, Hiroshi Sekiguchi, Eunhee S. Yi, Jay H. Ryu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Exogenous lipoid pneumonia (ELP) develops when lipid-containing substances enter the airways through aspiration or inhalation and incite an inflammatory response. The diagnosis of ELP often is difficult because findings may be nonspecific. The clinical course of ELP has not been well characterized. Research Question: What are the presenting clinicoradiologic features of ELP, its causative agents, and clinical course? Study Design and Methods: We searched the Mayo Clinic electronic medical records for patients diagnosed with ELP between 1998 and 2020. Inclusion diagnostic criteria were: (1) lipoid pneumonia (LP) on histopathologic examination, (2) lipid-laden macrophages in BAL fluid, or (3) fatty attenuation of parenchymal opacities on chest CT imaging. Additionally, all patients were required to have a clinician diagnosis of LP in the absence of conditions known to cause endogenous LP. Results: Thirty-four patients were identified. Mean age was 71 years, with no sex predominance; one-half were asymptomatic. The diagnosis was confirmed by lung biopsy (including three lobectomies for suspected malignancy) in 71% of patients, CT scan in 24% of patients, and BAL in 5% of patients. Most patients manifested bilateral parenchymal opacities that commonly involved the lower lobes; fatty attenuation was identifiable in only 41% of patients. A causative substance was identified in 79% of patients, in most cases after the diagnosis was established. Over a median follow-up of 1.2 years, only 20% of patients with chronic respiratory symptoms improved, whereas 50% worsened. Over a median follow-up interval of 1 year, CT scan abnormalities improved or resolved in 33% of patients and progressed in 39% of patients. Patients who deteriorated were older, with a higher prevalence of GI disorders than those who remained stable or improved. Interpretation: ELP often is asymptomatic and may not manifest fatty attenuation on chest CT imaging. Clinical and radiologic abnormalities persist or worsen in most affected patients, even when the causative agent is discontinued.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)624-632
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • aspiration-related syndromes
  • clinical course
  • exogenous lipoid pneumonia
  • fatty attenuation
  • radiologic evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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