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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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LAM Lung Disease (Lymphangioleiomyomatosis)

Diagnosis of LAM Lung Disease

Most people with LAM see their doctor because of shortness of breath. Because LAM is so rare, it's often misdiagnosed at first as asthma or emphysema.

Generally, LAM is finally discovered after a long workup for shortness of breath. Tests frequently performed include:

  • Chest X-ray: In LAM, a chest X-ray may show fine lines in the lungs, where muscle cells have multiplied. In early stages of LAM lung disease, the chest X-ray film may look normal.
  • Pulmonary function tests measure lung capacity and the ability to get oxygen from the air into the blood. These tests are usually abnormal in people with LAM.
  • Computed tomography (CT scan): Chest CT scans are almost always abnormal in LAM lung disease. Cysts are usually visible. High-resolution CT (HRCT) may show the changes of LAM even more clearly.

It's possible to diagnose LAM lung disease based on a woman's history and findings on high-resolution CT scan. But doctors often recommend collecting a sample of lung tissue (biopsy) to confirm the diagnosis. Lung biopsies can be collected in different ways:

  • Bronchoscopy : An endoscope (flexible tube with a camera on its end) is passed into the windpipe and lower airways. Tools passed through the endoscope can collect a lung biopsy.
  • Thoracoscopy: An endoscope is passed through a small incision into the chest to collect lung tissue.
  • Open lung biopsy: Traditional surgery in which a surgeon works through a larger incision in the chest and takes a sample of lung tissue.

A physician (pathologist) then examines lung biopsy tissue, helping make the diagnosis of LAM lung disease with greater certainty.


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