Background: Acute exacerbation of usual interstitial pneumonia is one of the most life-threatening complications after resection of lung cancer. It is important to detect patients at high risk for acute exacerbation. The purpose of this study was to investigate the incidence of postoperative acute exacerbation and the importance of the finding of honeycombing in predicting the risk of it. Methods: From 992 consecutive pulmonary resections for lung cancer, the background lung was retrospectively assessed histologically. Preoperative chest computed tomographic images of those patients with histologically proven usual interstitial pneumonia were retrospectively reassessed and classified into three groups: typical honeycombing, possible honeycombing, and no honeycombing. Records of patients who experienced postoperative acute exacerbation were extracted from the clinical database, and the correlation between computed tomographic findings and incidence of acute exacerbation was analyzed. Results: Of the 992 lung cancer patients, 12 (1.2%) experienced postoperative acute exacerbation. Usual interstitial pneumonia was histologically confirmed in 249 patients, and 4.8% of them experienced postoperative acute exacerbation. No patient without usual interstitial pneumonia experienced it. Preoperative computed tomographic images were available in 205 of the 249 patients. Postoperative acute exacerbation developed in 13.6% of patients (6 of 44 patients) in the typical honeycombing group, 6.4% of patients (5 of 78 patients) in the possible honeycombing group, and 0% of patients (0 of 83 patients) in the no-honeycombing group. Compared with the no-honeycombing group, the incidence of acute exacerbation in the typical and possible honeycombing groups was significantly higher (p = 0.001, p = 0.025, respectively). Conclusions: Physicians should consider the finding of possible honeycombing, as well as typical honeycombing, a potential risk factor for acute exacerbation after pulmonary resection for lung cancer.
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