A hole in the lung with a wall, lumen and contents. Focus of
increased density whose central portion has been replaced by air.
The following characteristics help in the differential diagnosis.
Multiple bilateral cavities would raise suspicion for either branchiogenous or
hematogenous process. You should consider:
- Aspiration lung abscess
- Septic emboli
- Metastatic lesions
- Vasculitis (Wegener's)
- Coccidioidomycosis, tuberculosis
- Primary lung cancer
- Post-traumatic lung cyst
- Many other diseases
A large cavity encompassing the entire lobe or lung should raise suspicion for
gangrene of lung.
Classical locations for aspiration lung abscess are superior segment of the lower lobes and axillary
subsegments of anterior and posterior segments of upper lobes.
Tuberculous cavities are common in superior segments of upper and lower lobes.
- When a
cavity in anterior segment is encountered, a strong suspicion for lung cancer should be
raised. TB and aspiration lung abscess are rare in anterior segments. Cancer lung can
occur in any segment.
walls are seen in:
- Lung abscess
- Necrotizing squamous cell lung cancer
- Wegener's granulomatosis
- Thin walled cavities are seen in:
cavitating squamous cell carcinoma from the cervix
- M. Kansasii infection
- Congenital or
- Post-traumatic cysts
- Open negative TB
Lining of Wall:
The wall lining is irregular and nodular in lung cancer or shaggy in lung abscess . The appearance is akin to stalactites and
The most common cause for air
fluid level is lung abscess. Air fluid levels can rarely be seen in malignancy and in
tuberculous cavities from rupture of Rasmussen's aneurysm.
- A fungous
ball should make you consider aspergillosis. A blood clot and
fibrin ball will have the same appearance.
- Floating Water Lily: I have never seen this. The collapsed
membrane of a ruptured echinococcal cyst, floats giving this
Ipsilateral lymph nodes or lytic lesions of the bone is seen with malignancy.
Evolution of Lesion:
Many times review of old films to assess the evolution of the
radiological appearance of the lesion extremely helpful. Examples
- Infected bullae
- Sub acute necrotizing aspergillosis
- Bleeding from Rasmussen's aneurysm in a tuberculous cavity
Cavity can be encountered in practically most lung diseases.
Common diseases and their characteristics include:
- Primary Lung Cancer
- Shaggy lumen
- Necrotizing Pneumonia
- Lung abscess
- Gravity dependant segments
- Thick wall
- Air-fluid levels
- Infiltrate around
- Fungal infections
- Sub acute invasive aspergillosis
- Metastatic disease
walled (Squamous cell)
Comprehension of the Above Principles:
- Rationale for multiple bilateral cavities.
- Why does reactivation TB occurs in superior segments?
- Why does aspiration lung abscess occur in the superior segment
of lower lobes?
- What is the criteria for thick and thin wall ?
- What is the pathogenesis of stalactites and stalagmites?
- What is crescentic sign?
- How do you differentiate between aspergilloma and sub acute
- Does the location of cavity in a density have diagnostic
- What is open negative TB?
- In metastatic disease, when do you get thin walled cavities and
when do you get thick walled cavities?