Pulmonary nontuberculous mycobacterial infection: radiologic manifestations

Radiographics. 1999 Nov-Dec;19(6):1487-505. doi: 10.1148/radiographics.19.6.g99no101487.


The nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTMB) are a group of bacteria that can infect the cervical lymph nodes, skin, soft tissues, and lung. Pulmonary NTMB disease is increasing in prevalence and is most commonly caused by Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare or M kansasii. Occasionally, M xenopi, M fortuitum, or M chelonae also causes pulmonary disease. Diagnosis of pulmonary NTMB infection is often difficult because isolation of the organism from sputum or bronchoalveolar lavage fluid can represent airway colonization. The radiologic manifestations of pulmonary NTMB infection are protean and include consolidation, cavitation, fibrosis, nodules, bronchiectasis, and adenopathy. Pulmonary NTMB infection has five distinct clinicoradiologic manifestations: (a) classic infection, (b) nonclassic infection, (c) nodules in asymptomatic patients, (d) infection in patients with achalasia, and (e) infection in immunocompromised patients. Although classic NTMB infection may be indistinguishable from active tuberculosis, it is usually more indolent. The radiologic features of nonclassic NTMB infection are characteristic: bronchiectasis and centrilobular nodules isolated to or most severe in the lingula and middle lobe. In patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, mediastinal or hilar adenopathy is the most common radiographic finding. Knowledge of the full spectrum of clinical and radiologic features of pulmonary NTMB infection is important to facilitate diagnosis and treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / diagnosis
  • Bronchial Spasm / diagnosis
  • Bronchial Spasm / microbiology
  • Bronchiectasis / diagnosis
  • Bronchiectasis / microbiology
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / microbiology
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / diagnosis*
  • Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare Infection / diagnosis
  • Nontuberculous Mycobacteria
  • Prevalence
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / microbiology
  • Sputum / microbiology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / diagnosis*