High-resolution computed tomography features of nonspecific interstitial pneumonia and usual interstitial pneumonia

J Comput Assist Tomogr. 2005 May-Jun;29(3):339-45. doi: 10.1097/01.rct.0000162153.55253.d3.


Objective: To assess the accuracy of high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) in the diagnosis of nonspecific interstitial pneumonia (NSIP). We hypothesized that the computed tomography (CT) features of NSIP could be distinguished from those of usual interstitial pneumonia (UIP).

Methods: The HRCT images of 47 patients with surgical lung biopsy-proven NSIP (n = 25) and UIP (n = 22) were independently reviewed by 2 thoracic radiologists. Predominant imaging patterns, most likely diagnosis, and diagnostic level of confidence were recorded. A confident HRCT diagnosis of NSIP was based on the presence of spatially uniform, bilateral, basal-predominant ground-glass and/or reticular opacities with little if any honeycombing, whereas UIP was confidently diagnosed if a spatially inhomogeneous, bilateral, peripheral, basal-predominant pattern of reticular opacities and honeycombing with little if any ground-glass attenuation was identified.

Results: A predominant pattern of ground-glass and/or reticular opacity with minimal to no honeycombing was demonstrated in 48 (96%) of 50 readings in patients with NSIP. Conversely, the presence of honeycombing as a predominant feature had a predictive value of 90% for UIP (P < 0.001). Usual interstitial pneumonia was more likely than NSIP to be subpleural and patchy (P < 0.001). A confident CT diagnosis of NSIP and UIP was correct in 73% and 88% of cases, respectively. The correctness of a CT diagnosis made at intermediate or high confidence was 68% and 88%, respectively. The kappa value for distinction of NSIP from UIP was 0.72.

Conclusion: In contrast to previous reports, NSIP can be separated from UIP in most cases. The presence of honeycombing as a predominant imaging finding is highly specific for UIP and can be used to differentiate it from NSIP, particularly when the distribution is patchy and subpleural predominant. The presence of predominant ground-glass and reticular opacity is highly characteristic of NSIP, but there is a subset of patients with UIP who have this pattern and may require biopsy for differentiation from NSIP.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*