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Pulmonary aspergilloma

Definition

Pulmonary aspergilloma is a mass caused by a fungal infection. It usually grows in lung cavities. It can also appear in the brain, kidney, or other organs.

Alternative Names

Fungus ball; Mycetoma; Aspergilloma; Aspergillosis - pulmonary aspergilloma

Causes

Aspergillosis is an infection caused by the fungus aspergillus. Aspergillomas are formed when the fungus grows in a clump in a lung cavity. The cavity is often created by a previous condition. Cavities in the lung may be caused by diseases such as:

The most common species of fungus that causes disease in humans is Aspergillus fumigatus.

Aspergillus is a common fungus. It grows on dead leaves, stored grain, bird droppings, compost piles, and other decaying vegetation.

Symptoms

You may not have symptoms. When symptoms do develop, they can include:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider may suspect you have a fungal infection after x-rays of your lungs show the ball of fungus. Other tests that may be done include:

  • Biopsy of lung tissue
  • Blood test for presence of aspergillus in the body (galactomannan)
  • Blood test to detect immune response to aspergillus (specific antibodies for aspergillus)
  • Bronchoscopy or bronchoscopy with lavage
  • Chest CT
  • Sputum culture

Treatment

Many people never develop symptoms. Often, no treatment is needed, unless you are coughing up blood.

Sometimes, antifungal medicines may be used.

If you have bleeding in the lungs, your provider may inject dye into the blood vessels (angiography) to find the site of bleeding. The bleeding is stopped by either:

  • Surgery to remove the aspergilloma
  • Procedure that inserts material into the blood vessels (embolization)

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome can be good in many people. However, it depends on the severity of the condition and your overall health.

Surgery may be very successful in some cases, but it is complex and can have a high risk of serious complications.

Possible Complications

Complications of pulmonary aspergilloma may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

See your provider if you cough up blood, and mention any other symptoms that have developed.

Prevention

People who have had related lung infections or who have weakened immune systems should try to avoid environments where the aspergillus fungus is found.

References

Horan-Saullo JL, Alexander BD. Opportunistic mycoses. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 38.

Walsh TJ. Aspergillosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 339.

Review Date:7/31/2016
Reviewed By:Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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