Mediastinal lymphadenopathy and hazy mediastinal fat: new CT findings of congestive heart failure

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1998 Nov;171(5):1307-9. doi: 10.2214/ajr.171.5.9798869.


Objective: We describe two new CT findings of congestive heart failure (CHF): enlarged mediastinal lymph nodes and hazy heterogeneous mediastinal fat.

Materials and methods: Forty-six patients were retrospectively identified who had major and minor clinical signs of congestive heart failure and had undergone chest CT during their symptomatic period. Two radiologists reviewed the CT studies and by consensus documented the presence or absence of imaging findings of CHF, including interstitial abnormalities, vascular redistribution, axial thickening, pleural effusions, cardiac enlargement, and mediastinal abnormalities.

Results: Smooth septal thickening, bilateral pleural effusions, vascular redistribution, and cardiac enlargement were the most common CT findings in patients with CHF. Enlarged mediastinal lymph nodes and hazy mediastinal fat were seen in 55% and 33% of cases, respectively. In a cohort of 17 patients with elevated pressures in the pulmonary capillary wedge documented within 24 hr of CT, CT scans revealed lymphadenopathy in 14 patients (82%) and inhomogeneous fat in 10 patients (59%).

Conclusion: Enlarged mediastinal lymph nodes and hazy mediastinal fat occur in patients with CHF and are revealed by CT. Lymphadenopathy in patients with CHF does not necessarily indicate malignancy or an infectious process.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / diagnostic imaging*
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Mediastinum / diagnostic imaging*
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*