Noninfectious granulomatous inflammation


Last author update: 1 September 2011
Last staff update: 6 March 2023 (update in progress)

Copyright: 2003-2023,, Inc.

PubMed search: Sarcoidosis [title] lung

Elliot Weisenberg, M.D.
Page views in 2022: 15,943
Page views in 2023 to date: 7,297
Cite this page: Weisenberg E. Sarcoidosis. website. Accessed May 29th, 2023.
Definition / general
  • Multisystemic disease of unknown origin that involves lung or bilateral hilar lymph nodes in 90% of cases
  • May be a manifestation of disordered immune regulations in genetically susceptible individuals after exposure to environmental agents
  • Increased risk with some HLA genotypes
  • Increase in pulmonary T cell CD4:CD8 ratio
  • Increase in T cell derived cytokines IL-2 and IFN-gamma
  • Increase in other cytokines (IL-8, TNF, others) in microenvironment
Clinical features
  • Commonly anergy to skin test antigens, polyclonal hypergammaglobulinemia
  • Presents as perihilar node involvement, diffuse pulmonary disease, pulmonary interstitial fibrosis, localized bronchial stenosis, distal bronchiectasis and atelectasis
  • Age usually 20 - 40 years, F > M, 90% are black, rare in Chinese or southeast Asians
  • 80% have elevated serum angiotensin converting enzyme (not specific); 65% recover without further problems; 20% have permanent pulmonary loss; 3% die of pulmonary fibrosis or congestive heart failure
  • A diagnosis of exclusion, since there are no specific criteria for disease; should culture and use special stains
  • Lungs:
    • Either no gross lesion or 1 - 2 cm nodules; often in bronchial submucosa, so biopsies are helpful
  • Lymph nodes:
    • Hilar or mediastinal lymph nodes involved in almost all cases, tonsils involved in 25% of cases
    • Nodes are enlarged, may be calcified
  • Liver / spleen:
    • Gross disease in 20%, microscopic involvement in 75% of cases
  • Bone:
    • Xray changes in 20%, usually small bones of hands and feet
  • Skin:
    • Involvement in 30% - 50% with erythema nodosum
    • Also mucus membranes
  • Eye:
    • Iritis or iridocyclitis in 20% - 50%
  • Best prognosis: hilar lymphadenopathy alone
  • Worst prognosis: pulmonary disease without adenopathy
  • Necrotizing sarcoid granulomatosis:
    • Very rare
    • Controversial if this is a distinct form of sarcoidosis
    • Usually affects women, often with mild or no symptoms, and excellent prognosis using steroids, immunosuppressive drugs and surgery for localized lesions
    • Resembles tuberculosis, fungal infections or granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener's)
    • Exclude infections with negative culture and negative histochemical stains
Gross images

Contributed by @AKhannaMBBS on Twitter
Sarcoidosis Sarcoidosis


Microscopic (histologic) description
  • Noncaseating epithelioid granulomas with tightly packed epithelioid cells, Langhans giant cells and lymphocytes (T cells), usually in interstitium adjacent to bronchioles and around and within vessel walls, pleura and connective tissue septa
  • May also be hyalinization, diffuse interstitial fibrosis, fibrinoid necrosis, fibrosis within granulomas, intra- and extracellular inclusions
  • Pleural involvement in 10%
  • Schaumann bodies: laminated concretions of calcium and protein
  • Asteroid bodies: stellate inclusions within giant cells, in 60% of granulomas
  • Neither is specific for sarcoid (also seen in berylliosis)
  • Necrotizing sarcoid granulomatosis: extensive, vascular, noncaseating sarcoid-like granulomas invading pulmonary arteries and veins with diffuse necrosis of lung parenchyma
Microscopic (histologic) images

Contributed by Weijie Li, M.D., Mark R. Wick, M.D. and @AKhannaMBBS on Twitter
Sarcoidosis in lymph node Sarcoidosis in lymph node Sarcoidosis in lymph node Sarcoidosis in lymph node

Sarcoidosis in lymph node

Sarcoid lymph node asteroid body

Sarcoid lymph node asteroid body

Sarcoid lymph node Sarcoid lymph node

Sarcoid lymph node

Sarcoid mediastinum lymph node Sarcoid mediastinum lymph node

Sarcoid mediastinum lymph node

Sarcoidosis Sarcoidosis


Virtual slides

Images hosted on other servers:
Burnt out sarcoidosis

Lung: burnt out sarcoidosis

Missing Image

Lymph node

Differential diagnosis
Back to top
Image 01 Image 02