What is Lung Lobe Twisting?
Sometimes, this is a spontaneous occurrence with no predispositions in regards to breed, sex, or age. However, lung lobe torsion is most commonly observed in cats that have had a history of lung problems.
Lung lobe torsion is a rare condition in cats in which one of the lobes of the lungs becomes twisted, most commonly around the bronchus and blood supply from the heart. This usually happens in the lung lobe that is located closest to the heart. When torsion occurs, the vein carrying deoxygenated blood back to the heart collapses. This will cause the lobe to fill with blood. Fluid will also flood the chest cavity, which may cause one or more of the healthy lung lobes to collapse, resulting in shortness of breath and the death of lung lobe tissue.
Symptoms of Lung Lobe Twisting in Cats
Since the disease is rare in cats, symptoms are typically non-specific. However, you’ll want to take your cat to the vet as soon as possible if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
- Chronic coughing
- Coughing up blood
- Nose bleeds
- General weakness or lethargy
- Loss of appetite
While these symptoms are not specific to this condition, it is important to have your cat checked over by a vet in order to eliminate the possibility of lung lobe torsion.
Causes of Lung Lobe Twisting in Cats
The causes of lung lobe torsion in cats are not clear at this time. This disease primarily affects dogs that have large chest cavities. Cats that are affected by lung lobe torsion typically have a lung defect from birth, particularly peritoneopericardial diaphragmatic hernia, which is a type of hernia that most commonly affects the liver and gall bladder. Cancer and chronic respiratory conditions have also been observed in cats with lung lobe torsion.
Diagnosis of Lung Lobe Twisting in Cats
As standard, your vet will conduct a thorough physical examination, listening carefully to your cat’s breathing, and ask you about your pet’s medical history. It is important to inform your vet of any respiratory issues during this time, as well as the duration of the symptoms.
Your vet will also take a blood cell count and chemistry profile. They will also analyze the fluid that has built up in the chest cavity. Normally, the fluid will be only slightly tinged with blood, but may be a darker red, depending on how much blood is present in the collapsed lung lobe.
The best way to diagnose lung lobe torsion is through the use of an x-ray. Bronchoscopy and thoracoscopy– using a camera to examine the lungs or the chest– in addition to CT scans of the chest may also be used to diagnose the condition.
Treatment of Lung Lobe Twisting in Cats
The only treatment method available at present is surgical removal of the collapsed lung lobe. By the time the condition is diagnosed, the lobe is often too damaged to be saved. The surgery will require catheterization and intravenous fluid therapy, particularly if the cat has gone into circulatory shock. If the cat is showing signs of severe respiratory distress, anesthesia and intubation may be used to ensure a stable condition. Additionally, if the cat is having a difficult time breathing on its own, the veterinary surgeon may choose to place it on oxygen therapy.
The procedure will involve removing the affected lung lobe and then inserting a tube that runs through the chest wall into the chest cavity. This tube is simply used to monitor and drain any excess fluid and air present in the chest cavity. The tube is removed within a few days after the surgery.
Recovery of Lung Lobe Twisting in Cats
Since cats can live with only 50 percent of their lungs intact, the prognosis is generally fair. However, the prognosis will depend on whether or not the cat was suffering from underlying conditions that caused the torsion, as well as the severity of the condition at the time of diagnosis and treatment.
Your vet will likely keep the cat in the hospital for at least 24 hours to monitor their condition and breathing. Before the vet removes the tube in the chest cavity, they will perform a follow-up chest x-ray to ensure that torsion hasn’t occurred in another lung lobe. Other possible repercussions of the surgery include the collapse of a lung and blood present in the pleural cavity. Once the vet has ensured that air and fluid accumulation have slowed considerably, usually within 24 hours, then the tube can be removed.
Your vet may administer pain management medication and oxygen therapy as needed following the surgery. As with any major surgery, you should ensure that your cat gets plenty of rest following a lung lobe resection. Also monitor your cat closely to ensure it does not irritate the surgery site.