Study objectives: This study reports histopathologic findings in a group of emphysema patients who underwent thoracoscopic lung volume reduction surgery (75) or sternotomy (five) with the purpose to induce functional improvement and relief of dyspnea. Immediate outcome and complications were correlated to histologic patterns.
Design: Histopathologic material obtained in lung volume reduction surgery in 80 consecutive patients was analyzed. Thirty patients who had other histopathologic diagnoses in addition to emphysema were grouped and compared with 50 patients found to have emphysema exclusively. Postoperative outcome and preoperative lung function variables were compared.
Measurements and results: All patients had severe obstructive lung disease and significant air trapping preoperatively documented by pulmonary function testing. All had severe exertional dyspnea. All had chest radiographs, CT, and nuclear medicine lung scans consistent only with emphysema. All portions of resected lung tissue were weighed, lung volume was estimated, and routine histopathologic studies were made. Thirty patients (37.5%) had unsuspected findings such as interstitial fibrosis, noncaseating granulomatosis, chronic inflammation, and unsuspected neoplasia (three carcinomas, one carcinoid). Retrospective review of imaging studies in these patients failed to show infiltrative processes. The average lung weight resected in this group was significantly heavier (65+/-18 g) compared with the other group (56+/-13 g), although both had the same estimated lung volume. Average number of days requiring chest tubes and length of hospitalization was also significantly higher (12.8+/-19 vs 6.4+/-5 days with chest tubes and 17.4+/-22 vs 8.5+/-6 days of hospitalization, respectively). None of the preoperative pulmonary function tests variables were different between the two groups. Serious postoperative complications were more frequent in these patients compared with those who showed only emphysema.
Conclusions: A significant portion of patients diagnosed as having severe emphysema will have other unsuspected histologic findings. When subjected to lung volume reduction surgery, this subgroup will have more serious complications and longer periods of air leaks, requiring longer hospitalization time. Retrospective review of imaging studies and preoperative pulmonary function tests used to select patients for lung volume reduction failed to identify this subgroup.