Air space opacification

Last revised by Calum Worsley on 30 Oct 2021

Air space opacification is a descriptive term that refers to the filling of the pulmonary tree with material that attenuates x-rays more than the surrounding lung parenchyma. It is one of the many patterns of lung opacification and is equivalent to the pathological diagnosis of pulmonary consolidation.

In radiological studies, it presents as increased attenuation of the lung parenchyma causing obscuration of pulmonary vessels, without significant loss of volume, in the segment(s) affected. Air bronchograms can also be found 1,2.



The opacification is caused by fluid or solid material within the airways that causes a difference in the relative attenuation of the lung:

When considering the likely causes of airspace opacification, it is useful to determine chronicity (by reviewing previous radiographs) and considering laterality.

Additionally, the presence of mediastinal or hilar lymphadenopathy further refines the massive list of differentials:

Patterns of disease

On chest radiography a number of patterns are recognized:

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1: left lower lobe consolidation
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  • Case 2
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  • Case 3: lingula consolidation
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  • Case 4: right lower lobe consolidation
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  • Case 5: left basal consolidation
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  • Case 6
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  • Case 7: on ultrasound
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