Asymptomatic congenital lung malformations

Semin Pediatr Surg. 2005 Feb;14(1):16-33. doi: 10.1053/j.sempedsurg.2004.10.022.


Congenital lung malformations are often discovered incidentally on routine prenatal sonography or postnatal imaging. Lesions such as congenital cystic adenomatoid malformations (CCAM), sequestrations, bronchogenic cysts and congenital lobar emphysema may be asymptomatic at birth or at the time of discovery later in life. Some authors advocate simple observation because of the lack of data on the incidence of long-term complications. However, there are very few described cases where CCAM and intralobar sequestration have remained asymptomatic throughout life; complications eventually develop in virtually all patients. The most common complication is pneumonia, which may respond poorly to medical treatment. Other complications include the development of malignancies (carcinomas and pleuropulmonary blastomas), pneumothorax and hemoptysis or hemothorax. Since lung resection will be required sooner or later for CCAM, intralobar sequestration and intrapulmonary bronchogenic cysts it is best not to wait for complications to occur. For patients diagnosed prenatally, we recommend surgery at 3 to 6 months of life at the latest, so that compensatory lung growth can occur. At this age the postoperative course is usually smooth and long-term follow-up has shown normal respiratory function. Mediastinal bronchogenic cysts also tend to become symptomatic and elective resection is recommended. On the other hand, asymptomatic congenital lobar emphysema may regress spontaneously and observation is warranted. The management of small noncommunicating extralobar sequestrations is more controversial; it is known that these lesions can remain asymptomatic throughout life but complications may develop and they are sometimes difficult to differentiate from neuroblastoma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bronchogenic Cyst / surgery
  • Bronchopulmonary Sequestration / surgery
  • Cystic Adenomatoid Malformation of Lung, Congenital / surgery*
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Lung / abnormalities*
  • Lung Diseases / congenital*
  • Lung Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung Diseases / surgery*
  • Pneumothorax / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / congenital
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / surgery
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal