The diagnostic value of 73 bronchoalveolar lavages was assessed in 67 immunocompromised children (aged 3 months to 16 years) with pulmonary infiltrates. Thirty one children had primary and 19 secondary immune deficiency, 14 acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and three AIDS related complex. Bronchoalveolar lavage was performed during fibreoptic bronchoscopy, under local anaesthesia in all but two. One or more infective agents was found in eight of 11 patients with severe acute pneumonia and in 26 of 62 patients with interstitial pneumonitis. In interstitial pneumonitis, the most frequently encountered agents were Pneumocystis carinii (12), cytomegalovirus (8), and Aspergillus fumigatus (3). The yield was related to the severity of interstitial pneumonitis. The mean cellular count and cytological profile in lavage returns from patients with varying infective agents or underlying pathological conditions showed no significant difference, except in those children with AIDS and AIDS related complex who had appreciable lymphocytosis (mean percentage of lymphocytes 28 (SD 17]. In children with AIDS and chronic interstitial pneumonitis lymphocytosis without pneumocystis infection was observed in eight of nine bronchoalveolar lavage returns and was suggestive of pulmonary lymphoid hyperplasia. Finally, bronchoalveolar lavage produced a specific diagnosis from the microbiological or cytological findings in 44 instances (60%). Transient exacerbation of tachypnoea was observed in the most severely ill children but there was no case of respiratory decompensation attributable to the bronchoscopy. Bronchoalveolar lavage is a safe and rapid examination for the investigation of pulmonary infiltrates in immunocompromised children. It should be performed as a first line investigation and should reduce the use of open lung biopsy techniques.
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