Yes! Mediastinal adenopathy (commonly defined as 1 or more lymph nodes with a short axis diameter >1 cm) may be caused by CHF alone (AKA “congestive adenopathy”). 1-4
Although not as common as alveolar/interstitial edema on chest CT scan, hypertrophy of mediastinal lymph nodes may occur in a significant number of patients with CHF. In a study involving 215 patients with CHF and no confounding etiology of adenopathy, 68% had evidence of adenopathy, particularly involving the right paratracheal and precarinal, subcarinal and other mediastinal lymph nodes; hilar and single station adenopathy were less common. The findings of pulmonary edema on CT and pleural effusion were significantly associated with adenopathy.1
In a study involving 3 patients with mediastinal adenopathy and CHF, lymph node biopsy showed noninflammatory, benign lesions that did not affect the node structure. Follow-up CT scan in 2 patients at 8 and 10 months showed no changes in the morphologic characteristics of mediastinal lymph nodes, while in another patient most of the enlarged lymph nodes disappeared at 5 months post- acute phase of the CHF.2 Interestingly, another study involving 31 cases of “subacute left heart failure” found that average ejection fraction was lower among patients with adenopathy (34% vs 43%).3
One potential mechanism for CHF-related adenopathy is that the excess lung fluid causes increased flow of fluid through the lymphatic channels and into the lymph nodes resulting in their congestion and enlargement.1
Bonus Pearl: Did you know that experimental animal studies have shown that acute CHF is associated with significant increases in mediastinal lymphatic flow and lymphatic vessel dilatation? 4-5
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- Shweihat YR, Perry J, Etman Y, et al. Congestive adenopathy: A mediastinal sequela of volume overload. J Bronchol Intervent Pulmonol 2016; 23:298-302. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27623420/
- Ngom A, Dumont P, Diot P, et al. Benign mediastinal lymphadenopathy in congestive heart failure. CHEST 2001;119: 653-656. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11171755/
- Chabbert V, Canevet G, Baixas C, et al. Mediastinal lymphadenopathy in congestive heart failure: a sequential CT evaluation with clinical and echocardiographic correlations. Eur Radiol 2004;14:881-889. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14689226/
- Drake RE, Dhother S, Teague RA, et al. Lymph flow in sheep with rapid cardiac ventricular pacing. Am J Physiol 1997; 272:1595-1598. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9176352/
- Leeds SE, Uhley HN, Telesky LB. Direct cannulation and injection lymphangiography of the canine cardiac and pulmonary efferent mediastinal lymphatics in congestive hart failure. Invest Radiol 1981;16:193-200. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6266975/
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