Pulmonary edema chest x ray

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Pulmonary edema Microchapters


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Differentiating Pulmonary Edema from other Diseases

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Farnaz Khalighinejad, MD [2]


The diagnosis of pulmonary edema usually confirmed on X-ray, which shows increased fluid in the alveolar walls. Kerley B lines, increased vascular filling, pleural effusions, upper lobe diversion (increased blood flow to the higher parts of the lung) may be indicative of cardiogenic pulmonary edema, while patchy alveolar infiltrates with air bronchograms are more indicative of noncardiogenic edema.

Chest X Ray

An x-ray may be helpful in the diagnosis of pulmonary edema. Findings on an x-ray suggestive of pulmonary edema include:[1][2]

Kerley B Lines

Kerley B lines are short parallel lines located at the lung periphery.

  • Represent distended interlobular septa
  • Usually less than 1 cm in length and parallel to one another at right angles to the pleura
  • May be seen in any zone but are most frequently located at the lung bases
Kerley B Lines By Mikael Häggström, via Wikimedia.org[3]


Cephalization refers to the redistribution of blood into the upper lobe vessels.

  • Pulmonary venous pressure exceeds 10 to 12 mmHg results in cephalization

Shown below is a chest x ray with the yellow arrow which demonstrate cephalization of blood vessels.

Cephalization - Case courtesy of <a href="https://radiopaedia.org/">Radiopaedia.org</a>. From the case <a href="https://radiopaedia.org/cases/11838">rID: 11838</ref>

Increased cardio-thoracic ratio

Cardio-thoracic ratio is useful for assessing an underlying cardiogenic cause of pulmunary edema.

  • A value > 0.5 or one half is consistent with enlargement of the heart
Increased cardio-thoracic ratio - Case courtesy of A.Prof Frank Gaillard, via Radiopaedia.org[4]

Peribronchial Cuffing

Peribronchial cuffing is a radiologic sign, also referred to as peribronchial thickening or bronchial wall thickening.

  • Occurs when excess fluid buildup in the small airway
  • Causes the area around the bronchus to appear more prominent on an X-ray
  • Thin bronchial walls are thickened and take on a doughnut-like appearance

Shown below is a chest x ray with the red arrows which demonstrate thickened bronchial walls that have a doughnut-like appearance.

Peribronchial cuffing - By C Michael Gibson, via Wikimedia.org[5]

Bat wing opacities

Bat's wing or butterfly pulmonary opacities a radiologic sign.

  • Bilateral perihilar shadowing
  • Classically described on a frontal chest radiograph

Shown below is a chest x ray with the yellow arrow which demonstrate bat's wing.

Bat wing opacities - Case courtesy of Dr Jeremy Jones, via Radiopaedia.org[6]

Differentiating Cardiogenic Versus Noncardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

Cardiogenic pulmonary edema can be distinguished from noncardiogenic pulmonary edema by radiographic features.

Cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

  • Presence of redistribution of blood flow to the upper lobes (increased blood flow to the higher parts of the lung)
  • Interstitial edema
  • Septal lines
  • Peribronchial cuffing
  • Pleural effusions

Noncardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

  • Patchy alveolar infiltrates
  • Air bronchograms
Radiographic Features That May Help to Differentiate Cardiogenic from Noncardiogenic Pulmonary Edema
Radiographic Feature Cardiogenic Edema Noncardiogenic Edema
Heart size Normal or greater than normal Usually normal
Septal lines Present Not usually present
Air bronchograms Not usually present Usually present
Peribronchial cuffing Present Not usually present
Pleural effusions Presens Not usually present
Distribution of edema Even or central Patchy or peripheral
Vascular distribution Balanced or inverted Normal or balanced


  1. Pistolesi M, Miniati M, Milne EN, Giuntini C (September 1985). "The chest roentgenogram in pulmonary edema". Clin. Chest Med. 6 (3): 315–44. PMID 3907943.
  2. Murray JF (February 2011). "Pulmonary edema: pathophysiology and diagnosis". Int. J. Tuberc. Lung Dis. 15 (2): 155–60, i. PMID 21219673.
  3. <"//commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Mikael_H%C3%A4ggstr%C3%B6m" title="User:Mikael Häggström">Mikael Häggström</ - Own work, <"http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en" title="Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication">CC0</, <"https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61595288"
  4. Radiopaedia.org. From the case <"https://radiopaedia.org/cases/12334">rID: 12334
  5. <"https://www.wikidoc.org/index.php/File:Peribronchial_cuffing.png">File:Peribronchial cuffing.png at <"https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_medical_wikis#WikiDoc" class="extiw" title="en:List of medical wikis">WikiDoc, <"https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0" title="Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0">CC BY-SA 3.0, <"https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65077075">
  6. Radiopaedia.org From the case <"https://radiopaedia.org/cases/6463">rID: 6463

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