Introduction: To evaluate the frequency of enlarged hilar or mediastinal lymph nodes in patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Methods: In a retrospective study, 89 patients with proven COPD were analysed. Exclusion criteria were history of malignant disease or clinical evidence of pneumonia. Prevalence, size, and localisation of enlarged lymph nodes were assessed by multi-slice computed tomography (MSCT) and correlated with the clinical stages following the GOLD classification as well as the MSCT findings of bronchitis and emphysema.
Results: 44/89 (49%) of our patients showed enlarged lymph nodes. Lymph node enlargement was more often seen in the mediastinum (48%) than the hilar region (20%). The most common localisation of enlarged mediastinal lymph nodes was the regional station 7 following the ATS mapping (infracarinal). Patients with a stage I following the GOLD classification showed enlarged lymph nodes in 49% (18/37), stage II in 46% (12/26), stage III in 58% (7/12) and stage IV in 50% (7/14). These findings did not differ significantly (P > 0.05). Severe airway wall thickening (42/89) was significantly more often associated with an increase of nodal enlargement (64%) (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: The present study demonstrates that enlarged hilar and mediastinal lymph nodes may occur in a rather high percentage of patients suffering from COPD, especially in those with the MSCT finding of severe bronchitis.