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Open Access Review

Congenital pulmonary lymphangiectasia

Carlo Bellini1*, Francesco Boccardo2, Corradino Campisi2 and Eugenio Bonioli3

Author Affiliations

1 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Department of Pediatrics, University of Genoa, G. Gaslini Institute, Genoa, Italy

2 Section of Lymphatic Surgery and Microsurgery, Department of Surgery, S. Martino Hospital, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy

3 Department of Pediatrics, University of Genoa, G. Gaslini Institute, Genoa, Italy

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Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases 2006, 1:43  doi:10.1186/1750-1172-1-43

Published: 30 October 2006

Abstract

Congenital pulmonary lymphangiectasia (PL) is a rare developmental disorder involving the lung, and characterized by pulmonary subpleural, interlobar, perivascular and peribronchial lymphatic dilatation. The prevalence is unknown. PL presents at birth with severe respiratory distress, tachypnea and cyanosis, with a very high mortality rate at or within a few hours of birth. Most reported cases are sporadic and the etiology is not completely understood. It has been suggested that PL lymphatic channels of the fetal lung do not undergo the normal regression process at 20 weeks of gestation. Secondary PL may be caused by a cardiac lesion. The diagnostic approach includes complete family and obstetric history, conventional radiologic studies, ultrasound and magnetic resonance studies, lymphoscintigraphy, lung functionality tests, lung biopsy, bronchoscopy, and pleural effusion examination. During the prenatal period, all causes leading to hydrops fetalis should be considered in the diagnosis of PL. Fetal ultrasound evaluation plays a key role in the antenatal diagnosis of PL. At birth, mechanical ventilation and pleural drainage are nearly always necessary to obtain a favorable outcome of respiratory distress. Home supplemental oxygen therapy and symptomatic treatment of recurrent cough and wheeze are often necessary during childhood, sometimes associated with prolonged pleural drainage. Recent advances in intensive neonatal care have changed the previously nearly fatal outcome of PL at birth. Patients affected by PL who survive infancy, present medical problems which are characteristic of chronic lung disease.