Munchausen syndrome presenting as pulmonary talcosis

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 1999 Aug;123(8):736-8. doi: 10.5858/1999-123-0736-MSPAPT.


We describe a patient with self-induced inhalational pulmonary talcosis originally diagnosed as asthma. A 35-year-old female respiratory technologist developed severe asthma that was refractory to steroids and methotrexate. An open lung biopsy specimen showed scattered aggregates of refractile golden crystals within membranous and respiratory bronchioles. The particles ranged in size from 30 to 100 microm and were birefringent when viewed with polarized light. Following review of the lung biopsy specimen, the patient admitted to regularly inhaling large amounts of hospital baby powder. Analysis of the lung biopsy specimen and a sample of the hospital baby powder by x-ray energy dispersion showed identical spectroscopic peaks, including elemental peaks for magnesium silicate. Many patients with self-induced illness lack the picturesque symptomatology classically attributed to Munchausen syndrome. Awareness of these more subtle and varied patterns of presentation may aid in earlier recognition.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adult
  • Asthma
  • Biopsy
  • Crystallization
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung Diseases / diagnosis
  • Lung Diseases / etiology*
  • Lung Diseases / pathology
  • Munchausen Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / chemistry
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / pathology
  • Talc / administration & dosage
  • Talc / adverse effects*
  • Talc / analysis


  • Talc