Lobar consolidation

Last revised by Andrew Murphy on 7 Feb 2023

Lobar consolidation is the term used to describe consolidation in one of the lobes of the lung. It infers an alveolar spread of disease and is most commonly due to pneumonia.

Consolidation refers to the alveolar airspaces being filled with fluid (exudate/transudate/blood), cells (inflammatory), tissue, or other material.

The list of causes of consolidation is broad, but for the complete consolidation of a lobe, the most common cause is pneumonia. The infection spreads through the lobe through the pores of Kohn between alveoli but is limited from spreading between lobes by the visceral pleura.

Other causes include:

General features of consolidation on CXR include:

Specific lobar consolidation can be determined by the location of airspace opacification, pattern and the effect on adjacent structures (silhouette sign):

It must be remembered that the homogeneity of the consolidation will be influenced by any underlying lung disease. For example, consolidation in background emphysematous lung is very often non-confluent. 

Occasionally with complete lobar consolidation, there may be an increased volume of the affected lobe, rather than the more frequent neutral or reduced volume. When the fissures are outwardly convex, the appearance is referred to as the bulging fissure sign.

  • lobar collapse can be mistaken for lobar consolidation but collapse will show signs of volume loss and usually absence of air bronchograms

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