Malignant pleural mesothelioma: computed tomography and correlation with histology

Eur J Radiol. 2009 Jun;70(3):485-91. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2008.02.004. Epub 2008 Mar 21.


Objective: To review the computed tomography (CT) imaging findings of pleural mesothelioma at presentation and to correlate the CT with the histological subtype.

Materials and methods: Pathology reports from 1997 to 2006 were reviewed at two academic institutions to identify patients with proven pleural mesothelioma. Diagnosis was based on histologic findings in specimens obtained by transthoracic needle biopsy, surgical biopsy or resection. All histology slides were reviewed by a lung pathologist. CT scans, available in 92 patients, were reviewed blindly and in random order by two independent radiologists. Kappa analysis was completed to assess inter-observer agreement. Eighty patients in whom there was no significant delay between CT imaging and histological diagnosis were assessed by logistic regression analysis to correlate CT and histologic findings.

Results: Seventy-two of the 92 mesotheliomas were epithelial, 15 sarcomatous, and 5 of mixed histology. All patients (77 male, 15 female, mean age 68 years) had pleural thickening on CT; the thickening was nodular in 79 patients (86%) and mediastinal in 87 (95%). Ipsilateral volume loss was seen in 42 patients (46%). Pleural effusions were present in 80 patients (87%), being large (>2/3 hemithorax) in 19 patients (21%). Atypical features at presentation included bilateral disease in three patients (3%), and spontaneous pneumothoraces in nine patients (10%). Internal mammary lymphadenopathy was observed in 48 patients (52%) and cardiophrenic lymphadenopathy in 42 (46%). Inter-observer agreement was excellent (average kappa=0.89). Ipsilateral volume loss was associated with sarcomatous or mixed mesothelioma (p=0.004). Using logistic regression analysis, other CT findings did not correlate with histological subtype.

Conclusions: Ipsilateral volume loss is most frequently associated with sarcomatous or mixed mesothelioma. The remaining imaging findings are not helpful in predicting the histological subtype of malignant mesothelioma.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mesothelioma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Mesothelioma / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pleural Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pleural Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*