Diagnostic yield of nasal scrape biopsies in primary ciliary dyskinesia: A multicenter experience

J. Tod Olin, Kim Burns, Johnny L. Carson, Hilda Metjian, Jeffrey J. Atkinson, Stephanie D. Davis, Sharon D. Dell, Thomas W. Ferkol, Carlos E. Milla, Kenneth N. Olivier, Margaret Rosenfeld, Brock Baker, Margaret W. Leigh, Michael R. Knowles, Scott D. Sagel

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Examination of ciliary ultrastructure remains the cornerstone diagnostic test for primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD), a disease of abnormal ciliary structure and/or function. Obtaining a biopsy with sufficient interpretable cilia and producing quality transmission electron micrographs (TEM) is challenging. Methods for processing tissues for optimal preservation of axonemal structures are not standardized. This study describes our experience using a standard operating procedure (SOP) for collecting nasal scrape biopsies and processing TEMs in a centralized laboratory. We enrolled patients with suspected PCD at research sites of the Genetic Disorders of Mucociliary Clearance Consortium. Biopsies were performed according to a SOP whereby curettes were used to scrape the inferior surface of the inferior turbinate, with samples placed in fixative. Specimens were shipped to a central laboratory where TEMs were prepared and blindly reviewed. Four hundred forty-eight specimens were obtained from 107 young children (0-5 years), 189 older children (5-18 years), and 152 adults (> 18 years), and 88% were adequate for formal interpretation. The proportion of adequate specimens was higher in adults than in children. Fifty percent of the adequate TEMs showed normal ciliary ultrastructure, 39% showed hallmark ultrastructural changes of PCD, and 11% had indeterminate findings. Among specimens without clearly normal ultrastructure, 72% had defects of the outer and/or inner dynein arms (IDA), while 7% had central apparatus defects with or without IDA defects. In summary, nasal scrape biopsies can be performed in the outpatient setting and yield interpretable samples, when performed by individuals with adequate training and experience according to an SOP.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-488
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric Pulmonology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011


  • cilia
  • nasal biopsy
  • primary ciliary dyskinesia


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