Occult Lung Cancer Occluding a Pulmonary Vein with Suspected Venous Infarction, Mimicking Pneumonia and a Pulmonary Embolus

Yoel Siegel, Russ Kuker, Gary Danton, Javier Gonzalez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background Patients with lung cancer present to the emergency department (ED) in a variety of ways. Symptoms are often nonspecific and can lead to a delay in diagnosis. Here, a lung cancer mimicked two illnesses, adding to the diagnostic complexity. This case highlights diagnostic pitfalls as well as advantages and limitations of imaging utilized in the emergency setting. Case Report We report a case of an occult lung cancer occluding a pulmonary vein, which at first mimicked pneumonia and later a pulmonary embolism (PE) and arterial lung infarction. The patient presented to the ED with cough and a lung opacity on chest radiograph that was treated with antibiotics. However, recurrent visits to the ED with similar complaints were further investigated with computed tomography angiogram (CTA). At first the scan was considered positive for PE. Further inspection revealed that the CTA findings were not typical for PE, but rather a slow flow state likely caused by an occult mass occluding a pulmonary vein with venous infarction. Biopsy revealed a lung adenocarcinoma. In addition to the case presentation, the typical signs of PE on CTA with correlating images and diagnostic pitfalls are discussed. Why Should an Emergency Physician Be Aware of This? This case report raises two themes that can be of interest to emergency physicians. The first is that lung cancer has many guises. Here it mimicked two distinctly different diseases, pneumonia and PE. The second is that, although CTA is highly sensitive and specific for diagnosing PE, it has limitations that may lead to false positive readings. When clinical signs and symptoms fail to correlate with the imaging diagnosis, alternative explanations should be sought.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e11-e14
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • CTA
  • lung cancer
  • pulmonary embolus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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