Micronodular lung disease on high-resolution CT: patterns and differential diagnosis

Clin Radiol. 2021 Jun;76(6):399-406. doi: 10.1016/j.crad.2020.12.025. Epub 2021 Feb 7.


With the advent of high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT), micronodular lung disease is a routinely encountered pathology in thoracic imaging. This article will review how to differentiate the three main micronodular patterns and review the differential diagnosis for each. Differential diagnosis of micronodular lung disease may be extensive, but by identifying the pattern and using additional clues, such as distribution, additional imaging findings, and clinical history, a radiologist can make an accurate diagnosis. First, three micronodular patterns - centrilobular, peri-lymphatic, and random - can be identified by using a simple algorithm based on the location of nodules. This algorithm requires understanding of the anatomy and function of the secondary pulmonary lobule. Each micronodular pattern offers a unique differential diagnosis. Centrilobular nodules can be seen with inflammatory, infectious, or vascular aetiologies; peri-lymphatic nodules with sarcoidosis and lymphangitic carcinomatosis; and random nodules with haematogenous metastases or infections.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Multiple Pulmonary Nodules / diagnostic imaging*
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*