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Chest. 1990 Sep;98(3):536-42.

Bronchoalveolar lavage and morphology of the airways after cessation of exposure in asthmatic subjects sensitized to toluene diisocyanate.

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  • 1Second Medical Clinic, University of Pisa, Italy.


To evaluate the morphologic basis of the different outcomes of toluene diisocyanate (TDI) asthma after quitting occupational exposure, we examined ten patients with TDI asthma who showed, at diagnosis, a positive TDI challenge test and nonspecific bronchial hyperresponsiveness (NSBH) to methacholine. After diagnosis, all patients ceased work and a 4- to 40-month follow-up was obtained with three to eight determinations of the cumulative dose producing a 15 percent fall in FEV1 (PD15FEV1) methacholine in each patient. Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) and biopsy of bronchial muscosa were performed 3 to 39 months after cessation of work, in the absence of acute exacerbations of the disease. Total cell count in BAL fluid was moderately increased in four of ten patients, eosinophils were increased in five of ten patients, and neutrophils were increased in eight of ten patients. Mucosal biopsy specimens of main or lobar bronchi were available in eight of ten patients; epithelial damage and thickening of basement membrane was observed in almost all patients, as well as a mild-to-moderate inflammatory reaction in the submucosa, mainly represented by lymphocytes, eosinophils, and neutrophils. No relationship was observed between the cellularity of BAL and the degree of NSBH at the time of BAL; mean values of total cells and differential count were not different between patients with presence or absence of the different histologic findings. Mucosal biopsy and BAL were performed also in four subjects exposed to dusts without respiratory symptoms or NSBH; similar findings were obtained except for the absence of eosinophils in BAL and a lesser degree of basement membrane thickening and inflammatory reaction in the submucosa. The study of the changes in NSBH after quitting exposure showed that five of ten patients had a significant improvement in NSBH to methacholine, as evaluated by a positive significant linear regression between months of work cessation and PD15FEV1 methacholine; only one of these five patients had an increased number of eosinophils in BAL fluid. By contrast, four of the five patients with persistent NSBH after quitting exposure had an increased number of eosinophils in BAL. We suggest that persistent NSBH in TDI asthma after cessation of work may be related to an inflammatory reaction in which eosinophil infiltration seems to be a major determinant.

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