Clinical and radiologic features of pulmonary edema

Radiographics. 1999 Nov-Dec;19(6):1507-31; discussion 1532-3. doi: 10.1148/radiographics.19.6.g99no211507.


Pulmonary edema may be classified as increased hydrostatic pressure edema, permeability edema with diffuse alveolar damage (DAD), permeability edema without DAD, or mixed edema. Pulmonary edema has variable manifestations. Postobstructive pulmonary edema typically manifests radiologically as septal lines, peribronchial cuffing, and, in more severe cases, central alveolar edema. Pulmonary edema with chronic pulmonary embolism manifests as sharply demarcated areas of increased ground-glass attenuation. Pulmonary edema with veno-occlusive disease manifests as large pulmonary arteries, diffuse interstitial edema with numerous Kerley lines, peribronchial cuffing, and a dilated right ventricle. Stage 1 near drowning pulmonary edema manifests as Kerley lines, peribronchial cuffing, and patchy, perihilar alveolar areas of airspace consolidation; stage 2 and 3 lesions are radiologically nonspecific. Pulmonary edema following administration of cytokines demonstrates bilateral, symmetric interstitial edema with thickened septal lines. High-altitude pulmonary edema usually manifests as central interstitial edema associated with peribronchial cuffing, ill-defined vessels, and patchy airspace consolidation. Neurogenic pulmonary edema manifests as bilateral, rather homogeneous airspace consolidations that predominate at the apices in about 50% of cases. Reperfusion pulmonary edema usually demonstrates heterogeneous airspace consolidations that predominate in the areas distal to the recanalized vessels. Postreduction pulmonary edema manifests as mild airspace consolidation involving the ipsilateral lung, whereas pulmonary edema due to air embolism initially demonstrates interstitial edema followed by bilateral, peripheral alveolar areas of increased opacity that predominate at the lung bases. Familiarity with the spectrum of radiologic findings in pulmonary edema from various causes will often help narrow the differential diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Altitude Sickness / complications
  • Cytokines / adverse effects
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Embolism, Air / complications
  • Humans
  • Hydrostatic Pressure
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / complications
  • Near Drowning / classification
  • Near Drowning / complications
  • Neurogenic Inflammation / complications
  • Permeability
  • Pneumonectomy / adverse effects
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Edema / classification
  • Pulmonary Edema / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pulmonary Edema / etiology
  • Pulmonary Edema / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Embolism / complications
  • Pulmonary Veno-Occlusive Disease / complications
  • Reperfusion Injury / complications
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / complications
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Cytokines