Small airways disease

Timothy Craig Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Small airways diseases are best defined pathologically as a diverse group of conditions that primarily involve bronchioles and acartilagenous airways 2 mm or less in diameter, which include membranous bronchioles, respiratory bronchioles, and alveolar ducts. Small airways can be involved with disease primarily or secondarily. The concept of small airways disease varies among specialties, with clinicians generally considering them in terms of terminal airway changes causing airflow obstruction, radiologists considering them in the context of direct signs and indirect signs identified on high-resolution computed tomography scans, and pathologists evaluating them based entirely or almost entirely on the histologic changes present in the bronchioles, with or without associated changes involving bronchi and alveoli. The histologic features of small airways diseases may be confusing because they overlap. There may be incomplete assessment of the histologic process with limited biopsy. Other disease processes may occur along with a small airways disease, and may obscure or confound its histologic features. This article focuses on the histologic changes diagnostic of a variety of primary and secondary small airways diseases. Because the histologic features involve bronchioles, gross findings are often minimal and/or nonspecific. The article provides a nonexhaustive examination of conditions and diseases involving the small airways, focusing on the microscopic features, with emphasis on the limitations of histologic diagnosis and differential diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-186
Number of pages16
JournalSurgical Pathology Clinics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Bronchiolitis
  • Constrictive bronchiolitis
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  • Idiopathic bronchiolocentric pneumonia
  • Organizing pneumonia with intraluminal polyps

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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