Bronchial carcinoid tumors of the thorax: spectrum of radiologic findings

Radiographics. 2002 Mar-Apr;22(2):351-65. doi: 10.1148/radiographics.22.2.g02mr01351.


Bronchial carcinoid tumors are neuroendocrine neoplasms that range from low-grade typical carcinoids to more aggressive atypical carcinoids and therefore demonstrate a wide spectrum of clinical behaviors and histologic features. Typical and atypical bronchial carcinoids have similar imaging features. Because most bronchial carcinoids are located in central airways, radiologic findings are usually related to bronchial obstruction. Central bronchial carcinoids manifest as an endobronchial nodule or hilar or perihilar mass with a close anatomic relationship to the bronchus. The mass is usually a well-defined, round or ovoid lesion and may be slightly lobulated at radiography and computed tomography (CT). Associated atelectasis, air trapping, obstructing pneumonitis, and mucoid impaction may also be seen. Peripheral bronchial carcinoids appear as solitary nodules. Calcification is common and is easily visualized at CT. Bronchial carcinoids demonstrate high signal intensity on T2-weighted and short-inversion-time inversion recovery magnetic resonance images. Prognosis of bronchial carcinoids is highly dependent on histologic findings: Atypical carcinoids have certain features that suggest a more aggressive nature. Typical bronchial carcinoids generally have an excellent prognosis, whereas atypical bronchial carcinoids have a worse prognosis. Therefore, understanding the histologic, clinical, and radiologic features of bronchial carcinoids facilitates accurate diagnosis and helps optimize surgical planning.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bronchi / pathology
  • Bronchial Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Bronchial Neoplasms / mortality
  • Bronchography
  • Carcinoid Tumor / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carcinoid Tumor / mortality
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed