Desquamative interstitial pneumonia, respiratory bronchiolitis and their relationship to smoking

Histopathology. 2004 Sep;45(3):275-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2559.2004.01921.x.


Aims: Respiratory bronchiolitis (RB) and desquamative interstitial pneumonia (DIP) are closely associated histological patterns of interstitial pneumonia, although there are no studies on the extent of individual histological parameters. Furthermore, the term smoking related-interstitial lung disease (SR-ILD) has been proposed as a term to encompass patients with both these histological patterns who give a history of smoking, though it is not well defined how this term relates to historical cases of DIP. The aim of this study was to compare histological parameters in cases of DIP and RB and then to review in detail clinical, imaging and histological data for DIP in relation to a history of smoking.

Methods and results: Forty-nine cases were reviewed, 24 with RB and 25 with DIP; five cases of DIP were re-classified as RB on review due to bronchocentricity of the infiltrate. There was a significantly greater extent of interstitial fibrosis (P = 0.02), lymphoid follicles (P < 0.001) and eosinophilic infiltration (P < 0.0001) in patients with DIP compared with RB. In addition, the extents of these three parameters were significantly interrelated. Patients with DIP had a lower incidence of smoking (60%) when compared with patients with RB-ILD (93%) (P < 0.005). Further analysis of smokers versus never-smokers with DIP showed no difference in histological parameters, extent of haemosiderin deposition or the number of CD1a+ macrophages between the two groups, nor were there any differences in clinical data to suggest other aetiologies. Follow-up high-resolution computed tomography data from patients with DIP suggested that a pattern of fibrotic non-specific interstitial pneumonia (NSIP) may develop in the long term in both smokers and never-smokers.

Conclusion: There are significant differences in the extent of interstitial fibrosis, lymphoid follicles and eosinophilic infiltration between DIP and RB, as well as a much lower incidence of smoking in patients with DIP. Whether the lower reported incidence of smoking in DIP reflects referral bias or conservatism in giving a history of smoking remains uncertain, as neither histological parameters nor clinical data indicate a difference between smokers and never-smokers with DIP. Nevertheless, some cases of DIP are likely to remain idiopathic and unrelated to RB, though still have a good prognosis. Furthermore, they may evolve into a pattern resembling fibrotic NSIP. Therefore, whilst SR-ILD is appropriate in the correct clinical setting, the distinction between the histological patterns of RB and DIP remains appropriate.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, CD1 / analysis
  • Bronchiolitis / metabolism
  • Bronchiolitis / pathology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hemosiderin / analysis
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lung / chemistry
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / metabolism
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / pathology*
  • Male
  • Smoking*


  • Antigens, CD1
  • CD1a antigen
  • Hemosiderin