Honeycombing (lungs)

Last revised by Dr Daniel J Bell on 31 Mar 2021

Honeycombing is a CT imaging descriptor referring to clustered cystic air spaces (between 3-10 mm in diameter, but occasionally as large as 2.5 cm) that are usually subpleural, peripheral and basal in distribution. They can be subdivided into:

The walls of the cysts are well-defined and often thick (1-3 mm) 4. They represent an irreversible finding commonly seen in diffuse pulmonary fibrosis (usual interstitial pneumonia UIP). 

Honeycombing consists of enlarged air spaces with thick fibrotic walls lined by bronchiolar epithelium and often filled with mucin and inflammatory cells 6.

The term “honeycomb lung” is thought to have originated in the 19th century in Germany and is thought to have first appeared in 1949 in a study by N Oswald and T Parkinson 5.

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: photograph - Bee honeycomb
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  • Case 1
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  • Figure 2: honeycomb lung: gross pathology
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  • Case 2
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  • Case 3
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