Clinical features and diagnosis of chronic pulmonary aspergillosis in Chinese patients

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Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (CPA) has recently been recognized as a significant global health burden. In China, the diagnosis of CPA is still unfamiliar to most doctors. The aim of this study was to demonstrate the clinical manifestations and diagnoses of CPA in China.

A multidisciplinary team of doctors retrospectively screened 690 records of patients diagnosed with pulmonary aspergillosis from January 2000 to December 2016 at Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Beijing, China. Of these, 69 patients were diagnosed with CPA. The patients’ clinical characteristics were then retrieved and analyzed. Demographic, laboratory, and radiological data for these patients were compared by CPA type.

Of the 69 patients diagnosed with CPA, 10 patients were diagnosed with chronic cavitary pulmonary aspergillosis (CCPA), 15 patients with semi-invasive aspergillosis (SAIA), 41 patients with simple aspergilloma, and 3 patients with Aspergillus nodule. Further, 53.3% of the SAIA patients were obviously immunocompromised, and 60% of the CCPA patients, 26.7% of the SAIA patients, 7.3% of the simple aspergilloma cases were mildly immunocompromised. Previous underlying lung abnormalities were observed in 20% of CCPA patients, 53.3% of SAIA patients, and 80.5% of simple aspergilloma patients. The most common symptoms in the CPA patients were cough (92.8%), hemoptysis (63.8%), chronic sputum (23.2%), and fever (17.4%). The most common computerized tomography abnormalities were cavities (94.2%), nodule (84.1%), consolidation (4.3%), pleural thickening (2.9%), and infiltration (2.9%). CCPA, SAIA and simple aspergilloma patients were significantly different with respect to their course before diagnosis, constitutional symptoms, fever, hemoptysis, breathlessness, white blood cell count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein count, presence of nodule, and presence of a solitary lesion (all P < .05). Furthermore, SAIA patients had a significantly shorter course before diagnosis and a significantly higher white blood cell count compared with CCPA patients (both P < .01).

In China, underlying systemic immunocompromising conditions and lung diseases with mechanical impediments contribute to CPA. Simple aspergillosis was the most common diagnosis in CPA patients. The imaging characteristics of simple aspergillosis and Aspergillus nodules were quite discriminable, while CCPA, and SAIA were similar in their clinical and radiological features. Distinguishing between CCPA and SAIA depends mainly on the physician's clinical judgment.

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