Overview

A calcified granuloma is a specific type of tissue inflammation that has become calcified over time. When something is referred to as “calcified,” it means that it contains deposits of the element calcium. Calcium has a tendency to collect in tissue that is healing.

The formation of granulomas is often caused by an infection. During an infection, immune cells surround and isolate foreign material, such as bacteria. Granulomas can also be caused by other immune system or inflammatory conditions. They’re most commonly found in the lungs. But they can also be found in other organs of the body, such as the liver or spleen.

Calcified vs. noncalcified granulomas

Not all granulomas are calcified. Granulomas are made up of a spherical cluster of cells that surrounds the inflamed tissue. They can eventually calcify over time. A calcified granuloma has a similar density to bone and will appear more brightly than the surrounding tissue on an X-ray.

Since noncalcified granulomas don’t contain calcium deposits, they can appear as a less distinct clump of cells on an X-ray or CT scan. Because of this, they’re often initially misdiagnosed as cancerous growths when viewed in this manner.

What are the symptoms?

If you have a calcified granuloma, you may not even know it or experience any symptoms. Typically, a granuloma will only cause symptoms if it’s affecting an organ’s ability to properly function due to its size or its location.

If you have a calcified granuloma and are experiencing symptoms, it may be due to an ongoing underlying condition that caused the granuloma to form.

Common causes

The formation of calcified granulomas in the lungs is often due to infections. These can be from a bacterial infection, such as tuberculosis (TB). Calcified granulomas can also form from fungal infections such as histoplasmosis or aspergillosis. Noninfectious causes of lung granulomas include conditions such as sarcoidosis and Wegener’s granulomatosis.

Calcified granulomas can also form in organs other than the lungs, such as the liver or spleen.

The most common infectious causes of liver granulomas are bacterial infection with TB and the parasitic infection schistosomiasis. Additionally, sarcoidosis is the most common noninfectious cause of liver granulomas. Certain medications can also cause liver granulomas to form.

Calcified granulomas can form in the spleen due to TB bacterial infection or the fungal infection histoplasmosis. Sarcoidosis is a noninfectious cause of granulomas in the spleen.

How it’s diagnosed

People who have calcified granulomas may not even know that they’re there. They’re often discovered when you undergo an imaging procedure such as an X-ray or CT scan.

If your doctor discovers an area of calcification, they can use imaging technology to evaluate the size and pattern of calcification to determine if it’s a granuloma. Calcified granulomas are almost always benign. However, less commonly, they can become surrounded by a cancer tumor.

Your doctor may also perform additional tests to determine what has caused the granulomas to form. For example, if calcified granulomas are discovered in your liver, your doctor may ask about your medical and travel history. They may also perform laboratory tests to evaluate your liver function. If needed, a biopsy can also be taken to confirm an underlying condition that has caused granuloma formation.

Treatment options

Since calcified granulomas are almost always benign, they typically don’t require treatment. However, if you have an active infection or condition that’s causing granuloma formation, your doctor will work to treat that.

If you have an active bacterial or fungal infection, your doctor will prescribe an appropriate antibiotic or antifungal. The antiparasitic drug praziquantel can be used to treat parasitic infection due to schistosomiasis.

Noninfectious causes of granulomas such as sarcoidosis are treated with corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive drugs in order to control inflammation.

Possible complications

Sometimes granuloma formation can lead to complications. Complications from granuloma formation are often due to the underlying condition that caused them.

The process of granuloma formation can sometimes be disruptive to tissue function. For example, the parasitic infection schistosomiasis can cause granulomas to form around the parasite’s eggs in the liver. The process of granuloma formation can in turn lead to fibrosis of the liver. This is when excess connective tissue accumulates into scar tissue in the liver. This can disrupt liver structure and function.

If you have an active infection or other condition that leads to granuloma formation, it’s very important that it’s treated to prevent any complications.

What’s the outlook?

If you have one or more calcified granulomas, chances are you don’t know you have them. If you’re diagnosed with a calcified granuloma, the granuloma itself will likely not require treatment.

If you have an underlying condition or infection that’s leading to granuloma formation, your doctor will work to treat that. The individual outlook is dependent on the condition being treated. Your doctor will work with you to establish a treatment plan and to address any concerns.