SAEM Clinical Images Series: ‘Tis Not the Season to be Wheezing

wheezing

A 2-year-old male with a history of solitary kidney presented with greater than one month of daily coughing, wheezing, and decreased appetite. The patient was previously seen by his primary care physician after three weeks of symptoms where he was prescribed albuterol as needed for viral bronchospasm. The patient’s wheezing did not improve after two weeks of albuterol treatment so a chest x-ray was ordered. The patient’s mother denied any fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, weight changes, or night sweats.

Vitals: BP 131/60; Pulse 148; Temp 36.7 °C (98.1 °F) (Axillary); Resp 28; Wt 15.7 kg (34 lb 9.8 oz); SpO2 95%

General: Alert; well appearing

HEENT: Pupils equally reactive to light; moist mucous membranes; nares with normal mucosa without discharge

Cardiovascular: Regular rate; regular rhythm; normal S1, S2; no murmur noted; distal pulses 2+

Pulmonary: Good aeration throughout all lung fields; clear breath sounds bilaterally; prolonged expiratory phase; stridor with agitation

Abdomen: Soft; non-tender; non-distended

White blood cell (WBC) count: 56.1/uL (Blasts 58%)

Platelets: 288/uL

Uric acid: 8.3 mg/dL

LDH: 2231 iU/LD

D-Dimer: 3.22 ug/mL

Fibrinogen: 463 mg/dL

Bronchospasm, bronchiolitis, viral infection, pneumonia, foreign body aspiration, space-occupying lesion, vocal cord dysfunction, cardiac dysfunction, and acute chest in patients with sickle cell disease.

The radiograph shown demonstrates a mediastinal mass. This patient was ultimately diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. T-ALL can present with fatigue, fevers, weight loss, easy bleeding/bruising, paleness, or a mediastinal mass. Mediastinal masses found on chest x-ray require further evaluation to determine the diagnosis, location, and treatment. If malignancy is suspected, an oncology referral and bone marrow sample will be necessary.

Take-Home Points

  • In patients with first-time wheezing that does not improve with bronchodilator therapy, consider alternative diagnoses and further evaluation.
  • A mediastinal mass is found at the time of diagnosis in 10% to 15% of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

  • Steuber, P (2021). Overview of common presenting signs and symptoms of childhood cancer.UpToDate. Retrieved January 2, 2021.2.
  • Juanpere, S., Cañete, N., Ortuño, P., Martínez, S., Sanchez, G., & Bernado, L. (2013). A diagnostic approach to the mediastinal masses. Insights into imaging, 4(1), 29–52.https://doi.org/10.1007/s13244-012-0201-0