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Causes and presenting features in 85 consecutive patients with hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the current spectrum of causes and clinical features associated with hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP).

PATIENTS AND METHODS: We studied consecutive patients with HP diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, from January 1, 1997, through December 31, 2002. Diagnostic criteria for HP included the following: (1) presence of respiratory symptoms, (2) radiologic evidence of diffuse lung disease, (3) known exposure or a positive serologic test result to an inciting antigen, and (4) no other identifiable cause for the lung disease. If there was no identifiable inciting antigen, 1 of the following 2 criteria was required: (1) lung biopsy specimen that demonstrated features of HP or (2) bronchoalveolar lavage lymphocytosis and high-resolution computed tomographic evidence of ground-glass opacities or centrilobular nodules bilaterally.

RESULTS: The mean +/- SD age of the 85 study patients was 53 +/- 14 years; 53 patients (62%) were women. Only 2 patients (2%) were current smokers. Chronic (> or = 4 months) respiratory symptoms were present in 66 patients (78%). Histopathologic confirmation was obtained in 64 patients (75%). The cause was identified in 64 patients (75%), and the most common causes were avian antigens (34%) and Mycobacterium avium complex in hot tub water (21%). Farmer's lung disease accounted for 11% of cases, and an additional 9% were related to household mold exposure. The inciting antigen was not identifiable in 25% of patients.

CONCLUSION: Most patients with HP seen at this tertiary care referral center in the Midwest region of the United States had chronic HP, and the most common causes were exposure to birds and exposure to hot tubs.

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