Feline lung-digit syndrome: Unusual metastatic patterns of primary lung tumours in cats

Nick Goldfinch, David Argyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Practical relevance Feline 'lung-digit syndrome' describes an unusual pattern of metastasis that is seen with various types of primary lung tumours, particularly bronchial and bronchioalveolar adenocarcinoma. Tumour metastases are found at atypical sites, notably the distal phalanges of the limbs; the weightbearing digits are most frequently affected, and multiple-digit and multiple-limb involvement is common. Often primary lung tumours in cats are not detected because of clinical signs referable to the primary tumour; rather, many cases present with signs referable to distant metastases. Other sites of metastases from feline primary lung tumours include the skin, eyes, skeletal muscle and bone, as well as multiple thoracic and abdominal organs. These lesions are thought to arise from direct arterial embolisation from the tumour. Indeed tumour embolisation to the aortic trifurcation is possible. Patient group Primary lung neoplasms are uncommon in the cat. Older animals are most affected (mean age at presentation 12 years, range 2-20 years). There is no apparent sex or breed predilection. Clinical challenges Feline lung-digit syndrome presents a diagnostic challenge. Typically there is swelling and reddening of the digit, purulent discharge from the nail bed, and dysplasia or fixed exsheathment of the associated nail. While these signs might be suggestive of infection, this could be secondary to a digital metastatic lesion, particularly in a middle-aged or elderly cat. Radiographic evidence of extensive bony lysis of the distal phalanx, which can be trans-articular to the second phalanx, raises the index of clinical suspicion for metastasis of a primary pulmonary tumour. Thoracic radiography is warranted prior to any surgery or digital amputation as the prognosis is generally grave for cats with this syndrome, with a mean survival time of only 58 days after presentation. Evidence base This article reviews the previous literature and case reports of feline lung-digit syndrome and feline primary pulmonary neoplasia in general, discussing the course of this disease and the varying clinical presentations associated with different sites of metastasis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-8
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Feline Medicine and Surgery
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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