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Diagnostic approach to interstitial pneumonias in a single centre: report on 88 cases

Dirk Theegarten1*, Heike Maria Müller12, Francesco Bonella2, Jeremias Wohlschlaeger1 and Ulrich Costabel2

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Pathology and Neuropathology, University Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Hufelandstrasse 55, Essen, 45147, Germany

2 Department of Pneumology/Allergology, Ruhrlandklinik - University Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Tüschener Weg 40, Essen, 45239, Germany

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Diagnostic Pathology 2012, 7:160  doi:10.1186/1746-1596-7-160

Published: 26 November 2012



Interstitial pneumonias (IP) cover a broad spectrum of diseases. Open lung biopsies reveal histological patterns and suggest possible diagnoses. Complete clinical records are necessary for final diagnoses. Especially idiopathic interstitial pneumonias (IIP) according to the ATS/ERS classification can only be diagnosed under these predictions. The aim of this study was to compare the results of histological evaluations with the final diagnosis after interdisciplinary case evaluation.

Patients and methods

88 patients with interstitial pneumonia that underwent open lung biopsies were investigated. Histology and clinical records were available for review. Diagnosis was made in three steps: first on the sole basis of histology, second with clinical information given initially and third, on the basis of an interdisciplinary case evaluation.


63 patients (72%) were diagnosed as idiopathic interstitial pneumonias according to ATS/ERS criteria. Further 10 (11%) cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, 7 (8%) Langerhans cell histiocytosis and 8 (9%) interstitial pneumonias of other known causes or associations were detected. Histological patterns alone agreed with the final diagnosis in 67%. In 82% histology and clinical information given to the pathologist could provide correct diagnosis. In the rest of cases, especially in non idiopathic interstitial pneumonias, an interdisciplinary case evaluation was needed.


Diagnosis of interstitial pneumonias by open lung biopsies needs sufficient clinical information. Because of the overlap of histological patterns, an interdisciplinary case evaluation that includes at least one clinical expert and one pathologist with excellent expertise and the follow-up of the patients is necessary to find correct diagnosis in all cases.

Virtual slides

The virtual slides for this article can be found here: webcite