Pneumothorax and bullae in Marfan syndrome

Respiration. 2011;82(3):219-24. doi: 10.1159/000322958. Epub 2011 Jan 22.


Background: Increased risk of spontaneous pneumothorax has been described in patients with Marfan syndrome and has been attributed, in part, to the presence of apical blebs and bullae.

Objectives: We assess the risk of pneumothorax and its relationship to the presence of apical blebs and bullae in patients with Marfan syndrome in the era of CT imaging.

Methods: A retrospective cohort study was performed of all patients 13 years or older with Marfan syndrome evaluated at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., USA, from 1998 through 2008. One hundred and sixty-six patients met the current diagnostic criteria for Marfan syndrome and had chest imaging studies available for review.

Results: The median age was 40 years (range 14-71); 37% had a smoking history. Eight of 166 patients (4.8%) had experienced 1 or more episodes of spontaneous pneumothorax, and 2 of these 8 patients had 2 or more episodes. Apical blebs or bullae were identified on radiologic imaging in 16 patients (9.6%). Four of 16 (25%) patients with apical blebs or bullae had a history of spontaneous pneumothorax compared to 4 of 150 patients (2.7%) without blebs or bullae (p = 0.003).

Conclusions: The frequency of blebs is relatively low in patients with Marfan syndrome but the risk of pneumothorax is significantly higher in those with radiologically detectable blebs or bullae. Chest CT scanning to identify blebs and bullae may allow risk stratification for pneumothorax in patients with Marfan syndrome.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blister / diagnostic imaging
  • Blister / etiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marfan Syndrome / complications*
  • Marfan Syndrome / diagnostic imaging
  • Marfan Syndrome / surgery
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonectomy
  • Pneumothorax / diagnostic imaging
  • Pneumothorax / etiology*
  • Pneumothorax / surgery
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Young Adult