Role of high-resolution chest computed tomography in a child with persistent tachypnoea and intercostal retractions: A case report of neuroendocrine cell hyperplasia

Mara Lelii, Maria Francesca Patria, Raffaella Pinzani, Rossana Tenconi, Alessandro Mori, Nicola Bonelli, Nicola Principi, Susanna Esposito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Chronic interstitial lung diseases in children (chILD) are a heterogeneous group of disorders that can represent a clinical challenge for pediatric pneumologists. Among them, neuroendocrine cell hyperplasia of infancy (NEHI) is a diffuse lung disease prevalent in the first years of life that spontaneously improves over time. The clinical presentation of NEHI is indistinguishable from other interstitial lung diseases, so a correct and non-invasive diagnosis by chest computed tomography (CT) without lung biopsy might not be simple. Case presentation: An 8-month-old male infant presented with a history of chronic tachypnoea and dyspnoea since 6 months of age. The patient was born at term, with APGAR scores of 9 and 10 at 1 and 5 min, respectively. Since his second month of life, the patient suffered from abnormal breathing, which was characterized by mild tachypnoea and costal retractions that worsened during breastfeeding, crying, and respiratory infections. Bilateral inspiratory crackles, preferential to the lung bases, without oxygen desaturation were detected. A chest X-ray showed a diffuse over-inflation of the lungs, but laboratory tests did not reveal any abnormalities. High-resolution chest CT documented patchy areas of ground-glass opacity involving the right upper lobe, middle lobe, and lingula, and showed mosaic areas of air-trapping, suggesting a diagnosis of NEHI. The infant was discharged without therapy and gradually improved over time. At 1 year of age, the patient was eupnoeic and chest auscultation had normalized. Conclusions: NEHI is an interstitial disease of infancy characterized by tachypnoea from the first months of life, with a good prognosis and for which a rational diagnostic approach is crucial for making a specific, early diagnosis. Initially, clinical suspicions can be confirmed with reasonable accuracy by a CT scan of the chest. Other more invasive and more expensive investigations should be reserved for selected cases that do not show a spontaneous, favourable clinical evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1113
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Sep 25 2017


  • Computed tomography
  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Neuroendocrine cell hyperplasia of infancy
  • Respiratory distress
  • Tachypnoea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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