Congenital lobar emphysema: diagnostic and therapeutic considerations

J Pediatr Surg. 1999 Sep;34(9):1347-51. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3468(99)90009-x.


Background/purpose: Congenital lobar emphysema (CLE) is characterized by overinflation of a pulmonary lobe and may present as a diagnostic and therapeutic dilemma. The authors have reviewed their experience to clarify the controversies about the diagnosis and management of CLE in children.

Methods: Children who had CLE and were treated at our department between 1991 and 1998, inclusive, were reviewed.

Results: Fourteen children consisting of 8 boys and 6 girls (age range, 25 days to 2.5 years) had CLE. Eight children (57%) were symptomatic at birth. Major presenting symptoms were dyspnea (n = 8, 57%), cyanosis (n = 6, 43%) and recurrent respiratory tract infection (n = 4, 28.5%). Chest x-rays and computerized tomography scans showed hyperaeration of the affected lobes in 14 and 12 patients, respectively. Pulmonary perfusion scan was performed in 8 patients and showed loss of perfusion in the affected lobe in 7 cases. The affected sites were left upper lobe (n = 8, 57%), right middle lobe (n = 4, 28.5%) and right upper lobe (n = 2, 14.5%). Congenital cardiac anomalies were encountered in 2 patients (14.5%). Ten children underwent lobectomy, and postoperative course was uneventful. Nonoperative management was performed in 4 cases (28.5%) presenting at older age with milder symptoms. In the latter, although symptoms subsided, radiological abnormalities persisted during the follow-up period of 3 months to 4 years. No mortality was encountered in the series.

Conclusions: The diagnosis of CLE is established by combined radiological and scintigraphic imaging methods. Surgical excision of the affected lobe is the appropriate treatment in all infants under 2 months of age and in infants older than 2 months presenting with severe respiratory symptoms. Infants older than 2 months presenting with mild to moderate respiratory symptoms associated with normal bronchoscopic findings can be treated conservatively. In conservative management, the children should be under close follow-up, and the family should be alarmed about the disease. Further studies are required to determine the long-term outcome of conservative management.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / congenital*
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / diagnosis*
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / therapy