Pulmonary intravascular tumor emboli: dilated and beaded peripheral pulmonary arteries at CT

Radiology. 1993 Jun;187(3):797-801. doi: 10.1148/radiology.187.3.8497633.


The diagnosis of pulmonary intravascular tumor emboli is difficult to establish both clinically and on conventional radiographic studies. Between 1985 and 1991, four cases of pulmonary intravascular metastases were demonstrated on computed tomographic (CT) scans from among 14,000 CT scans of the chest. A retrospective study of these cases was performed, including a review of chest radiographs. All four patients had invasive tumors, including an atrial myxoma, a renal cell carcinoma, an osteosarcoma, and a chondrosarcoma of the pelvis. Three cases had histopathologic documentation of pulmonary artery tumor emboli. At CT, all the patients demonstrated multifocal dilatation and beading of peripheral pulmonary arteries, primarily in a subsegmental distribution involving multiple lobes. Ossification of the pulmonary arteries occurred in one case of metastatic osteosarcoma. In two cases, small, peripheral wedge-shaped opacities distal to some abnormal pulmonary arteries suggested pulmonary infarcts. The finding of dilated and beaded peripheral pulmonary arteries at CT is highly suggestive of metastatic intravascular tumor emboli.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating* / pathology
  • Pulmonary Artery / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pulmonary Artery / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*