An unusual case of chylothorax

Lauryn A. Benninger, Julia A. Ross, Marino E. Leon, Raju Reddy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Pleural effusions occur in up to 70% of cases of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). However, MPM rarely presents as a chylous effusion making it a diagnostic challenge. There are only six reported cases to date. Most cases of chylothoraces due to malignancy are due to lymphoma or bronchogenic carcinoma. We report an interesting case of MPM in a 75-year-old man who presented with recurrent chylothorax. He reported a four-month history of dyspnea and chest discomfort. Chest x-ray revealed a pleural effusion. Pleural fluid analysis was consistent with a chylothorax. Pleural fluid cytology was negative for malignancy. Computed tomography of the chest showed pleural calcifications, mediastinal adenopathy and left lung infiltrate. A fine needle aspirate of the lymph node and transbronchial biopsy specimen (TBBX) of the left lung infiltrate showed extensive reactive appearing mesothelial cells but none that appeared malignant. A video assisted thoracoscopic surgery was suggested but the patient declined. He returned 3 months later with recurrent pleural effusion and worsening airspace disease. Thoracentesis revealed a chylothorax again. Repeat analysis of TBBX and lymph node specimens showed extensive reactive appearing mesothelial cells. Due to concern for MPM, ancillary testing was obtained - loss of BRCA1 associated protein (BAP-1) and CDKN2A/p16 gene deletion. BAP1 staining was lost in the mesothelial cells supporting MPM. This case highlights a rare cause of MPM presenting as a chylous effusion. In a patient with an unknown etiology of chylothorax, MPM must remain in the differential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-322
Number of pages5
JournalRespiratory Medicine Case Reports
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Chylothorax
  • Chylous pleural effusion
  • Epithelioid type
  • Malignant mesothelioma
  • Reactive mesothelial cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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