The Case of the Man Who Lost a Lung But Won a Prize

Albert Lowenfels, MD


March 09, 2011

Introduction to the Case

The patient was a 56-year-old man who complained of severe cough and weakness of approximately 4 months duration. The onset of his illness began with fever, chills, and a mild cough. An x-ray taken at that time revealed an area of consolidation in the left lung, for which he was treated with a 1-week course of penicillin and bed rest. However, the patient's pulmonary symptoms persisted, and about 2 months after the onset of symptoms he had a tomogram of the lungs, followed by bronchoscopy and a biopsy. A week after the bronchoscopy an operation was performed. Because the patient did not want to be hospitalized, a team of surgeons and anesthesiologists performed the operation in the patient's home. The patient had a slow recovery, but 2 months after the operation he was well enough to attend his grandson's third birthday. Four and a half months after surgery he spent a day hunting with friends and relatives, but that night, to the family's surprise, he died quietly in his sleep.

Medical and Family History

Family and Personal History

The patient was a moderate drinker but smoked heavily, beginning as a teenager. His father, a heavy smoker, died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at age 71. His mother, who was also a heavy smoker, died at age 85 with a suspected lung tumor. His older brother, also a smoker, died at age 77 of cancer of the throat.

Medical History

He had appendectomy performed at age 19 and while in his 20s he developed a duodenal ulcer. During middle age, he developed claudication, which was sufficiently severe to necessitate a lumbar sympathectomy at age 54. The patient had a speech impediment that had persisted since childhood.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.
Post as: