Background: Primary tracheobronchial non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is an uncommon occurrence. The authors report a patient who presented with primary tracheal NHL, the sixth such patient described in the literature.
Methods: Using a MEDLINE search, 41 additional patients presenting with symptomatic primary or secondary tracheobronchial NHL were identified. The characteristics, management, and outcome of these patients are described.
Results: Patients with NHL of the upper respiratory tract present with dyspnea, wheezing, and cough, and frequently are misdiagnosed as having asthma. The majority of patients have additional sites of intrathoracic disease with tracheobronchial involvement occurring in the setting of advanced or relapsed NHL. Low grade histology is seen most commonly in patients with primary tracheal NHL. Several patients demonstrate the typical histologic features of mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy have been used alone or in combination for treatment. The outcome of these patients does not appear different from that observed in patients with lymphomas of similar histology and stage that do not involve the tracheobronchial tree.
Conclusions: Thoracic surgeons, pulmonologists, and oncologists should recognize that NHL can rarely be confined to the trachea or bronchi. NHL should be considered in the differential diagnosis of airway obstruction, because it represents a highly treatable malignancy.