A patient told me recently that a report of their CT scan of the chest revealed “calcification in the hilar lymph nodes”. This finding and the report created some anxiety, and the patient was concerned enough to want to discuss it with me. We can view CT scans performed at our office and from several surrounding hospitals and private centers on our office computers. We use this technology to show patients what their findings look like and what they may mean. This is particularly true when small nodules are found incidentally on CT scans performed for other reasons than the study of the chest.
Calcification occurring in lymph nodes generally is a benign condition which reflects previous infection or inflammation. The potential causes of the infection or inflammation are many, and it may be impossible to give the patient an exact cause for the findings. The biggest concern for most patients is for a cancer diagnosis, and this is often the untold reason for the discussion. However, once the patient is shown his CT scan, and we can point to the actual findings, much of the stress is relieved, particularly when we can say that the calcification almost certainly means that this is an old healed process, a foot print of a disease that walked through the lung years ago. An in-depth history may sometimes suggest the cause of the findings, but often the reason for the calcification is “lost in the sands of time”.