Study objective: To provide current data on the long-term outcome and incidence of lung cancer in a large cohort of patients with hemoptysis of unknown origin.
Design: A retrospective chart review followed by a telephone interview for follow-up.
Setting: A university-affiliated tertiary referral center for pulmonary diseases.
Patients: Seven hundred twenty-two patients who presented with hemoptysis from January 1990 to December 1993. One hundred thirty-five patients were identified as having hemoptysis of unknown origin.
Results: One hundred thirty-five patients (19%) had hemoptysis of unknown origin; follow-up data were obtained in 115 patients, of whom 100 were still alive. The mean time of observation was 6.6 years after initial presentation. Lung cancer developed in 7 of 115 patients (6%) and was unresectable once detected; all of these patients were smokers > 40 years old, and malignancy developed within 3 years after first presentation.
Conclusions: Hemoptysis of unknown origin is present in a minority of patients presenting with hemoptysis if evaluated at a referral center for pulmonary diseases. Lung cancer seems to be increasing in these patients compared to previous studies, and closer follow-up or additional testing may be indicated in the defined population at risk.