April 2013 Critical Care Case of the Month: Too Many Diagnoses
Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 5:19AM
Rick Robbins, M.D. in cytomegalovirus, drug reaction, gemcitabine, ground glass opacities, pallative care, pneumonia, pulmonary edema

Elijah Poulos, MD

David M. Baratz, MD


Banner Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center

Phoenix, AZ


History of Present Illness

A 71 year old diabetic woman was admitted for 6-8 weeks of progressive dyspnea, non-productive cough, orthopnea, generalized edema and intermittent fevers. She has a history of living-related donor renal transplant from her husband in 1999 and was diagnosed with locally advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma in October 2012. She was treated with insulin for diabetes; the immunosuppressants tacrolimus, mycophenolate and low-dose prednisone for her renal transplant; and weekly gemcitabine beginning in 11/2012 for her pancreatic cancer. Her course was complicated by left lower extremity deep venous thrombosis in January 2013 and she was treated with full dose enoxaparin at 1 mg/kg BID. She was tolerating her chemotherapy poorly with a myriad of complaints including fatigue, skin ulcerations, poor appetite, weakness, dysphagia, malaise, nausea and intermittent chest pains. Her most recent chemotherapy was held because of pancytopenia. She was admitted to our hospital in early March 2013 with the above symptoms.

Physical Examination

Vital signs: Temp 98.8°F, BP 125/65 mm Hg, HR 84 beats/min, RR 18/min, O2 saturation 85% on room air.

General: She was an obese woman in no distress but with conversational dyspnea

Neck: Jugular venous distention could not be appreciated secondary to obesity.

Lungs: Bibasilar rales

Heart: regular rhythm with distant heart sounds, but no murmur or gallop.

Lungs: Bibasilar rales

Abdomen: Soft and non-tender without palpable organomegaly or masses.

Ext: 2+ bilateral lower extremity pitting edema to above the knees.


Her chest x-ray was interpreted as showing cardiomegaly with radiographic sequelae of pulmonary venous hypertension (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Admission PA (Panel A) and lateral (Panel B) chest radiography.

A thoracic CT scan was performed and was interpreted as showing vague diffuse bilateral groundglass opacities (Figure 2).


Figure 2. Movies of axial thoracic CT (upper panel) and  coronal thoracic CT (lower panel).  

Which of the following is a cause of ground glass opacities?

  1. Pulmonary edema
  2. Pneumonia
  3. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  4. Drug reaction
  5. All of the above

Reference as: Poulos E, Baratz DM. April 2013 critical care case of the month: too many diagnoses. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2013;6(4):161-7. PDF

Article originally appeared on SOUTHWEST JOURNAL of PULMONARY & CRITICAL CARE (http://www.swjpcc.com/).
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