Gallium-67 scanning to stage the alveolitis of sarcoidosis: correlation with clinical studies, pulmonary function studies, and bronchoalveolar lavage.
Current concepts of the pathogenesis of sarcoidosis suggest that the alveolitis of this disorder is related to increased numbers of mononuclear phagocytes and activated T-lymphocytes within the lung. To determine if 67Ga scanning, a procedure commonly used in the evaluation of inflammation, would be useful in staging the alveolitis of sarcoidosis, we studied 41 patients with this disorder and correlated estimates of pulmonary 67Ga accumulation with clinical, roentgenographic, physiologic, and bronchoalveolar lavage studies in these patients. Although 65% of patients with sarcoidosis showed increased amounts of 67Ga accumulation in the lung compared with control subjects, only weak correlations (r less than +/- 0.42, all comparisons) were found between the degree of gallium uptake and the clinical, roentgenographic, or physiologic data. In contrast, there was a strong correlation of 67Ga uptake and the number of lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes recovered from the lungs of these patients by bronchoalveolar lavage (p less than 0.0001, r greater than or equal to 0.67, both comparisons). This data suggested that gallium uptake reflects the intensity of the T-lymphocytes mediated component of the alveolitis in sarcoidosis. Because 67Ga scans are noninvasive, simple to perform, and widely available, they should prove useful to stage the activity of sarcoidosis and to make decisions regarding therapy directed against the alveolitis of the disease.