A case of airway aluminosis with likely secondary pleuroparenchymal fibroelastosis
Background: Excessive inhalation of aluminium powder occasionally results in upper lobe predominant lung fibrosis, which is similar to idiopathic pleuroparenchymal fibroelastosis (IPPFE) and has been suggested to be secondary PPFE. Case presentation: A 67-year-old man who had worked in an aluminum-processing factory for 50 years visited our hospital complaining of exertional dyspnea. Chest computed tomography (CT) showed bilateral dense sub-pleural consolidation in the upper and middle lung fields, which was consistent with IPPFE; however, the possibility of secondary PPFE associated with aluminosis was not ruled out. Considering the patient’s critical condition, trans-bronchial lung biopsy (TBLB) rather than surgical lung biopsy was performed, with elemental analysis of the biopsied specimen. Unfortunately, the specimen obtained by TBLB did not contain alveolar tissue; therefore, pathological diagnosis of PPFE was not possible. However, radiographic findings were highly suggestive of PPFE. On elemental analysis, excessive amounts of aluminum were detected in the bronchiolar walls, establishing a diagnosis of airway aluminosis with likely secondary PPFE resulting from aluminium exposure. Conclusions: TBLB with elemental analysis might be useful in differentiating idiopathic PPFE from secondary causes in dust inhalation related disease, such as aluminosis. This case indicated that inhalation of aluminium might cause secondary PPFE, with attention needing to be paid to avoid further exposure.
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