Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis: Frequency and meaning of the "hypodense sign" on unenhanced CT

M. Horger*, H. Einsele, U. Schumacher, M. Wehrmann, H. Hebart, C. Lengerke, R. Vonthein, C. D. Claussen, C. Pfannenberg

*Corresponding author for this work
56 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this study was to establish the diagnostic value of central hypointensity ("hypodense sign") in lung consolidations or nodules, in severely immunocompromised or neutropenic patients, suspected of having invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA), and to assess its recognition on unenhanced CT scans. Serial CT scans of the lung were retrospectively reviewed in 43 consecutive immunosuppressed patients with IPA, and assessed for the presence of the hypodense sign using standard mediastinal and lung windowing settings, as well as a special, narrower window setting (width 110-140 HU; level 15-40 HU). The temporal relationship between the occurrence of the first CT-finding suspicious of IPA and the appearance of the hypodense sign, as well as between this and the occurrence of the crescent sign, cavitation or reduction in lesion size, was evaluated. Additionally, CT-scans from 89 immunocompromised patients with viral (n=45) or bacterial (n=44) pneumonia, investigated in the same time period at our institution were reviewed, with respect to the presence of the "hypodense" sign. Unenhanced CT scans revealed the hypodense sign in 11 neutropenic patients and 2 severely immunocompromised patients, out of a total of 43 patients with IPA evaluated in this study (30.2%). The mean time between the appearance of the first CT-findings of IPA (large nodule or consolidation ± positive halo sign) and the hypodense sign was 7.8 days, while the time interval between the hypodense sign and the occurrence of crescent sign, cavitation, or decrease of the lesion's size was 8.3 days. The hypodense sign did not occur in any of the patients with viral or bacterial pneumonia, in the control series. We consider the hypodense sign to be a supplementary tool in the diagnosis of IPA. Its sensitivity was low in our series, but the high specificity makes it valuable in predicting IPA, anticipating the occurrence of cavitation or crescent sign, which are considered specific, but late findings of IPA. The hypodense sign is recognizable also on unenhanced CT, when a narrower lung window setting is used.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Radiology
Issue number932
Pages (from-to)697-703
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 08.2005


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