Diagnosis of pulmonary alveolar proteinosis: usefulness of papanicolaou-stained smears of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid

Arch Intern Med. 2001 Feb 26;161(4):562-6. doi: 10.1001/archinte.161.4.562.

Abstract

Background: The globules (stained green, orange, or orange in the center coated with a green rim) seen in Papanicolaou-stained smears of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid are suggested to be characteristic of pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (PAP).

Objective: To evaluate the usefulness of Papanicolaou-stained smears of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid in aiding a diagnosis of PAP.

Methods: Papanicolaou-stained smears of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid obtained from 7 patients (5 idiopathic, 2 secondary) with PAP were evaluated. To serve as controls, the smears of 11 normal subjects and 128 patients with other pulmonary disorders were also examined. The findings on the presence and number of globules were recorded. To differentiate PAP from other pulmonary disorders, the highest globule value obtained from the control group was chosen as the cutoff point.

Results: The characteristic globules were not found in normal subjects and only found in 6 of 128 patients with other pulmonary disorders. Their clinical diagnoses were Sjögren syndrome in 2 cases; polymyositis, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, asbestosis, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis in 1 case each. The numbers of globules in these 6 patients were 1, 3, 17, 7, 3, and 2. In contrast, more than 100 globules were found in all patients with PAP. The number of globules was highly sensitive and specific in aiding a diagnosis of PAP when the cutoff value was set at 18.

Conclusion: The globules seen in Papanicolaou-stained smears of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid may be valuable in aiding a diagnosis of PAP, especially when the number of globules is more than 18.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Papanicolaou Test
  • Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis / pathology*
  • Vaginal Smears