Acute fibrinous and organizing pneumonia: a histological pattern of lung injury and possible variant of diffuse alveolar damage

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2002 Sep;126(9):1064-70. doi: 10.5858/2002-126-1064-AFAOP.


Context: The histologic patterns of diffuse alveolar damage (DAD), bronchiolitis obliterans with organizing pneumonia (BOOP), and eosinophilic pneumonia (EP) are well-recognized histologic patterns of lung injury associated with an acute or subacute clinical presentation. We have recognized acute fibrinous and organizing pneumonia (AFOP) as a histologic pattern, which also occurs in this clinical setting but does not meet the classic histologic criteria for DAD, BOOP, or EP and may represent an underreported variant.

Objective: To investigate the clinical significance of the AFOP histologic pattern and to explore its possible relationship to other disorders, including DAD and BOOP.

Design: Open lung biopsy specimens and autopsy specimens were selected from the consultation files of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, which showed a dominant histologic pattern of intra-alveolar fibrin and organizing pneumonia. Varying amounts of organizing pneumonia, type 2 pneumocyte hyperplasia, edema, acute and chronic inflammation, and interstitial widening were seen. Cases with histologic patterns of classic DAD, BOOP, abscess formation, or eosinophilic pneumonia were excluded. To determine the clinical behavior of patients with this histologic finding, clinical and radiographic information and follow-up information were obtained. Statistical analysis was performed using Kaplan-Meier and chi(2) analysis.

Results: Seventeen patients (10 men, 7 women) with a mean age of 62 years (range, 33-78 years) had acute-onset symptoms of dyspnea (11), fever (6), cough (3), and hemoptysis (2). Associations believed to be clinically related to the lung disease included definitive or probable collagen vascular disease (3), amiodarone (1), sputum culture positive for Haemophilus influenza (1), lung culture positive for Acinetobacter sp. (1), lymphoma (1), hairspray (1), construction work (1), coal mining (1), and zoological work (1). Six patients had no identifiable origin or association. Follow-up revealed 2 clinical patterns of disease progression: a fulminate illness with rapid progression to death (n = 9; mean survival, 0.1 year) and a more subacute illness, with recovery (n = 8). Histologic analysis and initial symptoms did not correlate with eventual outcome, but 5 of the 5 patients who required mechanical ventilation died (P =.007).

Conclusions: Acute fibrinous and organizing pneumonia is a histologic pattern associated with a clinical picture of acute lung injury that differs from the classic histologic patterns of DAD, BOOP, or EP. Similar to these patterns of acute lung injury, the AFOP pattern can occur in an idiopathic setting or with a spectrum of clinical associations. The overall mortality rate is similar to DAD and therefore may represent a histologic variant; however, AFOP appears to have 2 distinct patterns of disease progression and outcome. The need for mechanical ventilation was the only parameter that correlated with prognosis. None of the patients with a subacute clinical course required mechanical ventilation.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bronchiolitis Obliterans / pathology
  • Collagen Diseases
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonia / classification
  • Pneumonia / mortality
  • Pneumonia / pathology*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / pathology
  • Pulmonary Eosinophilia / pathology
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / mortality
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology*