Erdheim-Chester disease: clinical, radiologic, and histopathologic findings in five patients with interstitial lung disease

Am J Surg Pathol. 1999 Jan;23(1):17-26. doi: 10.1097/00000478-199901000-00002.


Erdheim-Chester disease is a clinicopathologic entity defined by a characteristic pattern of symmetric osteosclerosis caused by an infiltrate of mononuclear cells that include prominent numbers of foamy histiocytes. About half of patients have extraskeletal manifestations, including involvement of the hypothalamus/posterior pituitary, orbit, retroperitoneum, skin, lung, and heart. Pulmonary involvement is an uncommon but important manifestation of Erdheim-Chester disease because it causes significant morbidity and mortality. A review of the Mayo Clinic files produced four patients with confirmed Erdheim-Chester disease in whom lung biopsy had been performed. One additional patient was included from the University of Pittsburgh. Four patients were women. The mean age was 53.6 years (range 25-70 years). All patients had bilateral and symmetric sclerotic bone lesions characteristic of Erdheim-Chester disease, although in three the skeletal abnormalities were discovered only after lung biopsy. Four patients had dyspnea, and one also had a dry cough. One patient died 17 months after diagnosis. Chest radiographs showed diffuse interstitial infiltrates in all patients, with an upper zone predominance in three. Thoracic computed tomography (CT) scans showed thickening of the visceral pleura and interlobular septa with patchy associated fine reticular and centrilobular opacities and ground glass attenuation. Lung biopsy specimens showed an infiltrate of foamy histiocytes, lymphocytes, and scattered Touton giant cells with associated fibrosis in a striking lymphatic distribution. The infiltrate involved visceral pleura, interlobular septa, and bronchovascular bundles. Immunohistochemical stains were positive for CD68 in all cases and S-100 protein in four cases. Stains for CD1a were consistently negative. Ultrastructural studies in one case showed no Birbeck granules. Although in bone the histologic features of Erdheim-Chester disease may overlap with Langerhans' cell histiocytosis, its expression in the lung is distinct. Lung involvement in Erdheim-Chester disease has emerged as a unique radiographic and histologic entity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Female
  • Histiocytosis, Langerhans-Cell / complications
  • Histiocytosis, Langerhans-Cell / diagnostic imaging
  • Histiocytosis, Langerhans-Cell / metabolism
  • Histiocytosis, Langerhans-Cell / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteosclerosis / complications
  • Osteosclerosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteosclerosis / metabolism
  • Osteosclerosis / pathology*
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / complications
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology*
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Biomarkers