Medical procedure can measure asbestos exposure and disease risk

One of the principal difficulties in treating people for asbestos exposure and asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma is the long time that elapses between initial exposure and the appearance of active symptoms. The length of time necessary to find active symptoms of mesothelioma prompted medical researchers at the University Hospital Vall d’Hebron in Barcelona to study the utility of using a well-known medical procedure, bronchoalveolar lavage, in detecting asbestos exposure.

Bronchoalveolar lavage involves irrigating the patient’s bronchi with a saline solution that allows doctors to measure the amount of asbestos fibers in the lung tissue. The researchers collected bronchoalveolar lavage samples from 72 patients who were undergoing bronchoscopies. The patients were mostly men who were an average of 66 years old. Lung tissue was collected from 23 of these patients.

The researchers used the patients’ medical records to determine that 39 of them had been exposed to asbestos. Using the accepted standard of 1000 asbestos bodies per one gram of dry tissues as the determinant, the researchers found that 33 percent of the subjects had asbestos fiber concentrations that warranted a positive diagnosis of one or more asbestos-related diseases. The researchers also found that the threshold level for asbestos exposure is most accurate when the ratio is dropped to .5 asbestos bodies per milliliter of bronchial fluid.

This research appears to give physicians another weapon in their fight against the effects of asbestos-product exposure. The extent to which bronchoalveolar lavage becomes a common diagnostic technique for pleural mesothelioma cannot be predicted, but the mere existence of the technique and the ease of administration should provide new hope for persons who have been exposed to various sources of asbestos fibers.

Source: Mesothelioma Research News, “Bronchoalveolar Lavage Accurate in Determining Asbestos Exposure, Study Reports,” Ines Martins, Ph.D., Dec. 12, 2016