The characteristics of patients with lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) are poorly defined, as they may present with or without pleural effusion (PE). We performed a systematic review across four electronic databases searching for studies reporting clinical findings, PE characteristics, and the most effective treatment of LAM. Case descriptions and retrospective studies were included, unrestricted by year of publication. The review consisted of 94 studies (199 patients) spanning a period of nearly 55 years. The median age was 38 years (range: 1 month to 69 years), and 79.7% were between 21 and 50 years old. All cases had dyspnea, 95% had a cough, and 87.5% had chest pain. PE was exudative chylothorax, usually unilateral (76%) and right-sided, predominantly lymphocytic, and with proportionately higher levels of proteins than lactate dehydrogenase. Sirolimus was effective in all cases, completely in 87%, and partially in 13%, although the number of patients receiving sirolimus was small. The present study confirmed that LAM and PE mainly occur in women of childbearing age (third to fifth decade of life). PE was usually unilateral and presented as a lymphocyte-predominant chylous exudate. The most effective treatment for PE seems to be sirolimus, although studies with larger series are needed to confirm this.

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