Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
 Open access journal indexed with Index Medicus & ISI's SCI  
Users online: 2670  
Home | Subscribe | Feedback | Login 
About Latest Articles Back-Issues Articlesmenu-bullet Search Instructions Online Submission Subscribe Etcetera Contact
 :: Next article
 :: Previous article 
 :: Table of Contents
 ::  Similar in PUBMED
 ::  Search Pubmed for
 ::  Search in Google Scholar for
 ::Related articles
 ::  Article in PDF (195 KB)
 ::  Citation Manager
 ::  Access Statistics
 ::  Reader Comments
 ::  Email Alert *
 ::  Add to My List *
* Registration required (free) 

  IN THIS Article
 ::  Abstract
 ::  Case History
 ::  Discussion
 ::  References
 ::  Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded753    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 13    

Recommend this journal


Year : 2007  |  Volume : 53  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 111-113

Severe nitrofurantoin lung disease resolving without the use of steroids

1 Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Kentucky, Lexington, United Kingdom
2 Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, United Kingdom

Date of Submission05-Jul-2006
Date of Decision24-Jul-2006
Date of Acceptance07-Aug-2006

Correspondence Address:
S Kraman
Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Kentucky, Lexington
United Kingdom
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0022-3859.32211

Rights and Permissions

 :: Abstract 

We report a case of an elderly woman who developed a severe, chronic pulmonary reaction to nitrofurantoin therapy that she had taken continuously for three years to prevent urinary tract infections. The patient was taking no other drug known to cause lung disease but the diagnosis was delayed by failure to recognize the association between nitrofurantoin and adverse drug reactions affecting the lung. When originally seen, the patient was unable to care for herself due to dyspnea. Bronchoscopy with biopsy ruled out other causes of her pulmonary disease. Immediate withdrawal of nitrofurantoin led to substantial, sustained improvement and disappearance of symptoms over several months without administration of corticosteroids. Nitrofurantoin toxicity should always be considered in any person taking that drug who develops bilateral infiltrates.

Keywords: Abnormalities, drug hypersensitivity, drug-induced, interstitial, lung diseases

How to cite this article:
Bhullar S, Lele S M, Kraman S. Severe nitrofurantoin lung disease resolving without the use of steroids. J Postgrad Med 2007;53:111-3

How to cite this URL:
Bhullar S, Lele S M, Kraman S. Severe nitrofurantoin lung disease resolving without the use of steroids. J Postgrad Med [serial online] 2007 [cited 2023 Jun 4];53:111-3. Available from:

Nitrofurantoin is an antimicrobial drug that is most commonly used as a prophylactic agent against urinary tract infections (UTIs) (long and short-term) and for the treatment of acute or recurrent cystitis. Pulmonary toxicity is a potentially serious and even fatal adverse drug reaction of nitrofurantoin treatment[1],[2],[3],[4],[5] and although it occurs infrequently, nitrofurantoin is one of the most common medications associated with lung injury.[6]

 :: Case History Top

A 71-year-old female presented with symptoms of dyspnea on exertion and productive cough with clear sputum that had intensified over the past three years. At the time of the initial visit, she had difficulties with activities of daily living, such as going to the bathroom independently and cooking for herself. She was known to have gastroesophageal reflux disease and stable Barrett's esophagitis. The patient also had a distant history of an untreated positive tuberculin skin test.

She was a retired nurse with no known occupational exposures, previous lung disease and no significant smoking history. She had one dog at home and no other pets. Her only other significant medical problem was chronic urinary tract infections and she had been placed on suppressive therapy with nitrofurantoin, 100 mg, every other day for the past three years. Her other regular medications were omeprazole 20 mg and aspirin 81 mg both given daily.

Physical exam revealed a well developed, well nourished female in mild respiratory distress at rest. Her vital signs were stable and room air oxygen saturation was 93%. Examination of the chest revealed vesicular lung sounds with fine crackles at the bases without wheezes, rubs or rhonchi. The remainder of her examination was unremarkable. A chest radiograph [Figure - 1] and computerized tomographic scan of the chest [Figure - 2] obtained approximately one week before the examination revealed patchy airspace disease and prominent calcified hilar lymphadenopathy. A recent cardiac catheterization performed because of suspicion of heart failure, showed no evidence of coronary artery disease and normal heart function.

An adverse drug reaction to nitrofurantoin was considered and the drug was stopped. However, other conditions were also considered and a bronchoscopy with multiple transbronchial lung biopsies was performed the following week. Pathological evaluation of the biopsy specimens showed organizing pneumonia [Figure - 3]. No granulomas, vasculitis or viral changes were appreciated. A Gomori methenamine silver stain was negative for fungal organisms. Pulmonary function tests were performed three weeks after stopping nitrofurantoin [see inset in [Figure - 3]] and revealed a restrictive pattern of lung function (forced vital capacity (FVC) diminished to 57% predicted, total lung capacity (TLC) of 70% predicted) with a carbon monoxide diffusing capacity (DLco) of 28% of predicted.

The pathologic findings, clinical course and long-time treatment with nitrofurantoin were most consistent with a chronic adverse drug reaction (ADR) to nitrofurantoin and the patient was warned to not restart the medication. Due to her advanced age and history of untreated positive tuberculin skin test, the decision was made to withhold corticosteroid therapy and monitor her clinically. She felt some subjective improvement within one week and after several months, her symptoms markedly improved and the airspace infiltrates seen on her chest radiographs began to clear [Figure - 5]. Pulmonary function tests showed normalization of her FVC (rising to over 90% predicted) within five months and more gradual but progressive improvement in her DL,co [Figure - 4]. She was able to resume her usual activities without cough or dyspnea.

 :: Discussion Top

In two large Swedish surveys, Holmberg et al found that most patients who develop pulmonary reactions to nitrofurantoin are women with a median age of 60 to 70 years of age.[7],[8] Historically, two different types of pulmonary injury are attributed to nitrofurantoin use: acute and chronic. The acute manifestation of this process is the most common and is thought to be due to a hypersensitivity reaction from the drug. Symptoms that develop after six months of therapy are generally considered to be chronic manifestation of the disease and have been thought to be the result of toxicity rather than hypersensitivity. However, over the past 30 years, there have been case reports that suggest that other types of pulmonary reactions can be caused by exposure to nitrofurantoin. These include pulmonary fibrosis[9],[10],[11],[12] and bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia.[13],[14] While the timing and mechanisms of injury are varied, the treatment of chronic pulmonary injury from nitrofurantoin is usually the same: cessation of the drug combined with corticosteroid therapy.

Nitrofurantoin is one of the most common causes of medication-induced lung toxicity and its early recognition and treatment is essential to avoid permanent disability or death. The chronic presentations are often associated with a gradual onset of dyspnea on exertion that can be misdiagnosed as other conditions such as congestive heart failure.

Cessation of nitrofurantoin is recommended in all types of nitrofurantoin-induced lung injury. In one study, acute pulmonary reactions improved within 15 days and about half of the patients were asymptomatic within 24h and 88% within 72h.[8] Recovery from chronic reactions may take from months to a year.[15],[16],[17] In chronic reactions, not all patients respond to withdrawal of the drug. In this subset of patients, corticosteroids are sometimes used to lessen the inflammatory response. Even then the damage may be permanent although, in a recently published series of 18 patients, half treated with corticosteroids and half not, most patients recovered.[15]

Our patient appeared to have a chronic nitrofurantoin reaction (Naranjo ADR probability scale of 7=probable)[18] that caused severe incapacitation to the point that she needed assistance in caring for herself. Were it not for her history of a positive tuberculin skin test, we would have administered corticosteroids. However, we elected to stop the nitrofurantoin and watch the patient's condition closely. Within the first week, she felt improved and serial pulmonary function tests documented reversal of the restrictive impairment. Our experience and other recent case descriptions[14],[15],[17] suggest that the older classification of nitrofurantoin lung as either acute or chronic, with the latter frequently irreversible, is incomplete and corticosteroids may be less necessary than previously thought. Nevertheless, it remains very important to suspect a drug reaction whenever a patient taking nitrofurantoin develops respiratory symptoms and lung infiltrates.

 :: References Top

1.Bidad K, Harries-Jones R. Nitrofurantoin lung injury. Age Ageing 2004;33:414-5.  Back to cited text no. 1  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
2.Jick SS, Jick H, Walker AM, Hunter JR. Hospitalizations for pulmonary reactions following nitrofurantoin use. Chest 1989;96:512-5.  Back to cited text no. 2  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
3.Magee F, Wright JL, Chan N, Currie W, Karr G, Hogg J, et al . Two unusual pathological reactions to nitrofurantoin: Case reports. Histopathology 1986;10:701-6.  Back to cited text no. 3    
4.Witten CM. Pulmonary toxicity of nitrofurantoin. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1989;70:55-7.  Back to cited text no. 4  [PUBMED]  
5.Yalcin S, Sahin A, Yalcin B, Altinok G. Nitrofurantoin toxicity to both liver and lungs. Liver 1997;17:166-7.  Back to cited text no. 5  [PUBMED]  
6.Hallas J, Gram LF, Grodum E, Damsbo N, Brosen K, Haghfelt T, et al . Drug related admissions to medical wards: A population based survey. Br J Clin Pharmacol 1992;33:61-8.  Back to cited text no. 6  [PUBMED]  
7.Holmberg L, Boman G. Pulmonary reactions to nitrofurantoin. 447 cases reported to the Swedish Adverse Drug Reaction Committee 1966-1976. Eur J Respir Dis 1981;62:180-9.  Back to cited text no. 7    
8.Holmberg L, Boman G, Bottiger LE, Eriksson B, Spross R, Wessling A. Adverse reactions to nitrofurantoin. Analysis of 921 reports. Am J Med 1980;69:733-8.  Back to cited text no. 8    
9.Perez Herms S, Castellanos Acosta R, Guzman Fernandez A, Cortadellas Angel R, Ballesteros Sampol JJ. Pulmonary fibrosis secondary to nitrofurantoin. Arch Esp Urol 1992;45:577-8.  Back to cited text no. 9  [PUBMED]  
10.Qureshi MM. Interstitial lung disease caused by chronic nitrofurantoin reaction; case report. Wis Med J 1984;83:20-2.  Back to cited text no. 10  [PUBMED]  
11.Robinson GM, Bai TR, Steele RH. Nitrofurantoin induced chronic pulmonary reaction: Case report. N Z Med J 1980;91:50-2.  Back to cited text no. 11  [PUBMED]  
12.Ruikka I, Vaissalo T, Saarimaa H. Progressive pulmonary fibrosis during nitrofurantoin therapy. A case history with autopsy report. Scand J Respir Dis 1971;52:162-6.  Back to cited text no. 12    
13.Cameron RJ, Kolbe J, Wilsher ML, Lambie N. Bronchiolitis obliterans organising pneumonia associated with the use of nitrofurantoin. Thorax 2000;55:249-51.  Back to cited text no. 13  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
14.Fawcett IW, Ibrahim NB. BOOP associated with nitrofurantoin. Thorax 2001;56:161.  Back to cited text no. 14    
15.Mendez JL, Nadrous HF, Hartman TE, Ryu JH. Chronic nitrofurantoin-induced lung disease. Mayo Clin Proc 2005;80:1298-302.  Back to cited text no. 15  [PUBMED]  
16.Rosenow EC 3rd, DeRemee RA, Dines DE. Chronic nitrofurantoin pulmonary reaction. Report of 5 cases. N Engl J Med 1968;279:1258-62.  Back to cited text no. 16    
17.Sheehan RE, Wells AU, Milne DG, Hansell DM. Nitrofurantoin-induced lung disease: two cases demonstrating resolution of apparently irreversible CT abnormalities. J Comput Assist Tomogr 2000;24:259-61.  Back to cited text no. 17  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]
18.Naranjo CA, Busto U, Sellers EM, Sandor P, Ruiz I, Roberts EA, et al . A method for estimating the probability of adverse drug reactions. Clin Pharmacol Ther 1981;30:239-45.  Back to cited text no. 18  [PUBMED]  


  [Figure - 1], [Figure - 2], [Figure - 3], [Figure - 4], [Figure - 5]

This article has been cited by
1 Nitrofurantoin-induced lung disease: about two cases
Mrozek N, Delevaux I, Legendre M, et al.
REVUE DE MEDECINE INTERNE. FEB 2008; 29(2): 149-151
2 Drug-induced interstitial lung disease
Paolo Spagnolo, Philippe Bonniaud, Giulio Rossi, Nicola Sverzellati, Vincent Cottin
European Respiratory Journal. 2022; 60(4): 2102776
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Nitrofurantoin-induced acute respiratory distress syndrome during pregnancy: A case report
Sherif S. Wahba
Egyptian Journal of Anaesthesia. 2013;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
4 drug induced interstitial lung disease
schwaiblmair, m. and behr, w. and haeckel, t. and märkl, b. and foerg, w. and berghaus, t.
open respiratory medicine journal. 2012; 6(1): 63-74
5 Nitrofurantoin-induced lung disease and prophylaxis of urinary tract infections
Yasser Madani,Bhupinder Mann
Primary Care Respiratory Journal. 2012; 21(3): 337
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
6 nitrofurantoin-induced pulmonary reaction involving respiratory symptoms: case report
kanji, z. and su, v.c.h. and mainra, r.
canadian journal of hospital pharmacy. 2011; 64(5): 362-365
7 questions on nitrofurantoin [fragen zu nitrofurantoin]
handrick, w. and spencker, f.-b.
chemotherapie journal. 2011; 20(2): 37-38
8 miscellaneous antibacterial drugs
corti, n. and imhof, a. and wenger, c.
side effects of drugs annual. 2010; 32: 461-489
9 diffuse rash and cough in elderly woman with a uti
baird, d. and bush, r.j. and seehusen, d. and eisenhower, d.d.
journal of family practice. 2010; 59(5): 281-284
10 Nitrofurantoin pulmonary toxicity: A rare but serious complication
Twilla, J., Winton, J., Self, T.H.
Consultant. 2010; 50(6)
11 nitrofurantoin pulmonary toxicity: a rare but serious complication
twilla, j. and winton, j. and self, t.h.
consultant. 2010; 50(6)
12 Probable nitrofurantoin-induced bronchiolitis obliterans with organizing pneumonia
Robinson, C., Nyi, P.P.
American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. 2009; 66(21): 1919-1922
13 Pneumopathie à la nitrofurantoïne: à propos de deux observations
N. Mrozek, I. Delèvaux, M. Legendre, M. André, S. Trouillier, H. Voinchet, O. Aumaitre
La Revue de Médecine Interne. 2008; 29(2): 149
[VIEW] | [DOI]


Print this article  Email this article
Previous article Next article
Online since 12th February '04
© 2004 - Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
Official Publication of the Staff Society of the Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, India
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow