Clinical correlation of asbestos bodies in BAL fluid.

Asbestos bodies (AB) in BAL cells are specific markers of asbestos exposure.

We retrospectively reviewed BAL cytocentrifuge slides of 30 utility workers with a history of asbestos exposure and 30 normal volunteers. BAL cytocentrifuge slides were blinded and scanned under 40 x light microscope.

AB were found more frequently in subjects with a history of asbestos exposure compared to normal volunteers (10 of 30 subjects, 33%, vs 0 of 30 subjects). The mean number of AB seen in the AB-positive group was 2.7 per slide. Demographic data were comparable including age, gender, and smoking. Exposure histories were also similar: duration > 20 years, onset > 30 years ago, and time since last exposure > 7 years. More AB-positive patients reported respiratory symptoms (70% vs 26%, p < 0.05). High-resolution CT scans of AB-positive patients revealed a higher prevalence of parenchymal disease (70% vs 26%, p < 0.05). AB-positive subjects had reduced pulmonary function compared to AB-negative subjects: FVC (86% vs 97% predicted), FEV(1) (77% vs 92% predicted, p < 0.05), and diffusion capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide (76% vs 104% predicted, p < 0.01).

In individuals with a history of asbestos exposure, the presence of AB in BAL cells is associated with higher prevalence of parenchymal abnormalities, respiratory symptoms, and reduced pulmonary function.

Addrizzo-Harris DJ, Bodkin M, Crane M, Harkin TJ, Rom WN, Vathesatogkit P


Chest, 2004, 126 (3)

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