A 36-year-old nonsmoking white man presented with an episodic 3-month history of dry cough and nasal allergy symptoms. He reported a past history of sinus allergies but no history of asthma. His illness began with a flu-like syndrome, and he had been treated with antibiotics (amoxicillin and azithromycin) and oral steroids (methylprednisolone) by 2 other physicians for “viral syndrome” and “bronchitis.”
The patient reported some tactile fever initially but none thereafter. Symptoms included episodic wheezing but no overt shortness of breath. In addition to the persistent dry cough, he complained of frequent sinus congestion, post-nasal drip, and sneezing. He became concerned when he noticed a fleck of blood in his phlegm.
Physical exam was unimpressive, except for nasal congestion. His breath sounds were clear. Chest x-ray showed a benign-appearing granuloma in the right lower lobe (no previous films available for comparison). Peak-flow measurements taken in the office were persistently low (58%-70%) but improved with steroids and inhaled albuterol.
Over the following 7 weeks, the patient experienced waxing and waning symptoms. At his follow-up visit, he appeared well; chest auscultation revealed normal breath sounds. He was treated with an additional round of antibiotics (levofloxacin), oral steroids, nasal steroids, and inhaled albuterol.
At 13 weeks from his initial presentation, he developed frank hemoptysis and was diagnosed with a right lower-lobe pneumonia in the emergency department. While hospitalized, his clinical status deteriorated, requiring chest tube placement for a large pleural effusion.
Shortly thereafter, he underwent right middle and lower lobectomies and decortication. Multiple organisms were cultured from the pleural fluid. Tuberculosis testing and acid-fast bacilli stains were negative. No malignant cells were identified. Pathologic examination of the resected lung tissue confirmed the chest x-ray finding of a benign calcified granuloma. Additional testing, including a thin barium esophagram, was performed.
Results of the esophagram revealed a congenital bronchoesophageal fistula (C-BEF) between the patient’s esophagus and right mainstem bronchus, located 15 cm distal to his trachea.
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