Bronchoalveolar lavage: Radiographic manifestations

J. W. Gurney, W. C. Harrison, K. Sears, R. A. Robbins, C. A. Dobry, S. I. Rennard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) is a safe and well-tolerated procedure in which the lower respiratory tract is sampled through infusion and subsequent aspiration of sterile saline solution. To determine the radiographic changes consequent to this procedure, 25 patients undergoing fiberoptic bronchoscopy and BAL were evaluated prospectively. After lavage, anteroposterior radiographs were obtained immediately and after 30, 90, and 240 minutes, and 24 hours. The degree and site of opacification on the radiographs was graded on a 4+ subjective scale. Sixty-nine lobes were lavaged, but owing to overlap on the radiographs, 52 projected areas were evaluable for radiographic changes. Forty-seven areas of consolidation were identified on the radiographs obtained immediately after lavage. Consolidation was homogeneous and always corresponded to a projected site of lavage. There was a positive correlation between initial opacity on the radiograph and the volume of retained fluid (r(s) = .60, P < .001). Consolidation cleared gradually over 24 hours. No patient had clinical pneumonitis. These benign, self-limited radiographic changes are common after BAL and may simulate pulmonary edema, aspiration, or hemorrhage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-74
Number of pages4
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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