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Environ Health Perspect. 1999 Apr;107(4):321-7.

A retired shipyard worker with rapidly progressive pulmonary interstitial fibrosis.

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  • 1Occupational Health Program, Harvard School of Public Health, Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Boston, MA, 02115 USA.

Abstract

We present a case of progressive interstitial fibrosis in a retired shipyard worker who was exposed to asbestos during the postwar era of the late 1940s and 1950s, when asbestos exposures in the workplace were not regulated. Forty years later, at 63 years of age, the patient presented with restrictive lung disease. The patient was diagnosed with asbestos-related pleural disease and parenchymal asbestosis. He remained stable for the next 7 years, but then he began to manifest rapid clinical progression, which raised the possibility of an unusual variant of asbestosis, a concomitant interstitial process, or an unrelated disease. Lung biopsy was not undertaken because of the patient's low pulmonary reserve and limited treatment options. An empiric trial of oral steroids was initiated, but his pulmonary status continued to deteriorate and he died of pulmonary failure at 72 years of age. Many diseases result in pulmonary interstitial fibrosis. Ideally, open lung biopsy should be performed, but this procedure inevitably causes complications in many patients with end-stage restrictive lung disease. Furthermore, while the presence of asbestos bodies in tissue sections is a sensitive and specific marker of asbestos exposure, neither this finding nor any other charge is a marker indicative of asbestosis or the severity of asbestosis. With the enactment of the Asbestos Standard in the United States, asbestos exposures have been decreasing in this country. However, industries that produce asbestos products and wastes continue to expand in developing countries. Prevention of asbestos-related lung disease should be a global endeavor, and asbestos exposures should be regulated in both developed and developing countries.

PMID:
10090713
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1566510
Free PMC Article
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