Amiodarone (Am) pneumonitis is currently a common and potentially severe adverse reaction, the accurate diagnosis of which remains difficult to establish.
Objectives: To determine the contribution of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) in the diagnostic workup of patients suspected of having Am pneumonitis.
Methods: Diagnosis of Am pneumonitis was established on the basis of (1) development of recent symptoms and pulmonary opacities while receiving the drug, (2) exclusion of other possible causes, and (3) improvement following cessation of Am and/or steroid therapy. (4) Confirmatory changes were obtained by histopathologic examination in eight cases. BAL was performed in each patient at the time of initial evaluation.
Results: Am pneumonitis was diagnosed in 15 consecutive patients between 1985 and 1991. The disease was associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Six patients died; four died of Am pneumonitis. A neutrophilic BAL was found in nine patients (average PMN = 26.6 percent). A mixed pattern (lymphocytic + neutrophilic) was seen in four patients (average: Ly = 19.9 percent; PMN = 11.9 percent). Two patients had a normal BAL. No patient had a lymphocytic pattern. A low CD4+/CD8+ ratio was seen in two patients. A literature survey indicated 70 cases of Am pneumonitis with detailed information on BAL. The BAL pattern was mixed in 23 (33 percent), neutrophilic in 18 (26 percent), lymphocytic in 15 (21 percent), and normal in 14 (20 percent). No correlation was found between BAL pattern and prognosis. Also, BAL pattern was related neither to daily or total dose of Am nor to duration of treatment with Am.
Conclusion: The cellular profile of BAL in Am pneumonitis is highly variable, and no cellular pattern of BAL seems to be predictive of a detrimental outcome or of irreversible fibrosis. Aside from excluding other illnesses, and due to its extreme variability, the contribution of BAL differential in the initial workup of patients suspected of having Am pneumonitis is limited.