Bronchial carcinoid in a 39-year-old man treated for bronchial asthma: a case report
© Emeryk et al., licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2008
Received: 19 November 2008
Accepted: 16 December 2008
Published: 16 December 2008
A case study of 39-year old man with persistent wheezing, episodes of haemoptysis and dry cough unsuccessfully treated with inhaled beta2-agonists and steroids for about 10 months. Chest radiograph revealed a disproportion in dimensions between both lungs, with the left one being smaller than the right one. Spirometry demonstrated a restrictive pattern. During bronchoscopy, a polypoid endobronchial tumor, localized in the left main bronchus, completely occluding its lumen, was found. The tumor was diagnosed as carcinoid. In this case, due to the lack of characteristic symptoms, diagnosis of carcinoid was delayed. Patients unsuccessfully treated for bronchial asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease should undergo bronchoscopic examination.
Bronchoscopy was performed, revealing a polypoid endobronchial tumor, localized in the left main bronchus (2 cm from tracheal bifurcation), completely occluding its lumen. The tumor was biopsied and the specimen was sent to histological examination which gave the diagnosis of bronchial carcinoid.
The patient was transferred to thoracic surgery ward for surgical treatment. He underwent left pulmonectomy and histopathological analysis of post-operative material confirmed the diagnosis of bronchial carcinoid. There were no complications during post-operative period and the patient was discharged from hospital 10 days after the operation. Then, the patient went abroad and was lost for follow-up until May 2008. On control visit in May, he was in very good condition, presenting no signs of pulmonary disease. On physical examination, except from diminished breath sounds and dullness to percussion over left lung (due to pulmonectomy and consequent pleural fluid accumulation) no abnormalities were found. In control computed tomography there were no signs of recurrence of the disease.
Pulmonary carcinoids comprise 1-2% of all lung tumors. They may develop in many locations in the body but most often, they are found in small intestine (26%), respiratory system (25%) and appendix (19%) .
Carcinoid tumors are classified as typical or atypical according to histopathological criteria. This division has a strict extrapolation to survival rates: in case of typical pulmonary carcinoids 5-year survival rate is over 90%, in atypical ones- it is within the range of 40-60% .
The following symptoms are observed most often in patients with carcinoid localized in respiratory system: haemoptysis, cough, recurrent pulmonary infections, fever, chest discomfort, unilateral wheezing and shortness of breath .
Due to the lack of characteristic symptoms, diagnosis of pulmonary carcinoid is delayed and patients are often misdiagnosed with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. According to three studies, there is an average delay of, respectively, 19, 13 and 10 months from the first symptoms to the final diagnosis of carcinoid [4–6]. Although general prognosis for patients with this neoplasm is quite favorable, it is obvious that the earlier diagnosis is made, the chances for radical treatment increase.
As the majority of pulmonary carcinoids (70%) are located in the main or lobar bronchi , they are within the reach of a bronchoscope. According to British Thoracic Society, flexible bronchoscopy is a safe procedure and there are no controlled studies concerning the factors disqualifying a patient from it . Bronchoscopy cannot replace computed tomography, these both procedures are complementary, but to be able to orientate the treatment and prognosis, we have to know the histopathological diagnosis and the specimens for examination can be easily and safely provided by bronchoscopy.
This case is a good example of misdiagnosis of the disease. Extended clinical diagnosis, including computed tomography and bronchoscopy, should be considered in all cases of bronchial asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease which do not respond to standard treatment.
"Written informed consent was obtained from the patient for publication of this case report and accompanying images. A copy of the written consent is available for review by the Editor-in-Chief of this journal."
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