Monica P. Revelo, MD, PhD

Brandon T. Larsen, MD, PhD

Plant material image from aspirated food is readily identified in this case of aspiration pneumonia. Note the surrounding suppurative granulomatous inflammatory response with numerous giant cells image.

In exogenous lipoid pneumonia, aspirated oil is engulfed by abundant foamy histiocytes image and even a foamy giant cell image. In this case, a child in respiratory failure aspirated baby oil 2 days before.



Implicated Mechanisms

  • Failure of normal airway clearing mechanisms (glottic closure, cough reflex)

  • Type and amount of aspirate determines mechanism of injury

    • Aspirate inoculum (i.e., gastric content) may produce direct toxic effects (chemical pneumonitis)

    • Stimulation of inflammatory process from large inoculum contaminated with bacteria

    • Obstruction of airways due to large amount of aspirate (> 0.3 mL/kg)

  • Epithelial cell and alveolar macrophage injury result in release of chemical mediators

    • Neutrophils are attracted and activated, with subsequent activation of proteases and production of reactive oxygen species



  • Incidence

    • Common in children and infants with feeding and swallowing problems due to neurological diseases or anatomical anomalies

  • Age

    • Peak incidence of foreign body aspiration: 10-24 months


  • Acute manifestations

    • Cough

    • Wheezing

    • Respiratory distress

    • Atelectasis

    • Airway obstruction

  • Long-term manifestations

    • Bronchiectasis

    • Bronchiolitis obliterans

    • Follicular bronchiolitis

    • Recurrent and prolonged respiratory infections

    • Chronic lung disease

Laboratory Tests

  • Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL)

    • Shows increased cellularity (lymphocytes, eosinophils, macrophages)

    • Lipid-laden macrophages in great numbers

    • Multinucleated giant cells containing lipid droplets

    • Presence of pepsin is indicative of aspiration of gastric contents

  • Videofluoroscopic swallow study

  • Fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing

Jul 8, 2016 | Posted by in PATHOLOGY & LABORATORY MEDICINE | Comments Off on Aspiration
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