Numbers of asbestos bodies on iron-stained tissue sections in relation to asbestos body counts in lung tissue digests.
Utilization of tissue digestion techniques has demonstrated the presence of large numbers of asbestos bodies within lungs of persons after occupational exposure to asbestos, and smaller numbers in the vast majority of persons with no identifiable exposure. Because of the wide variability in results of such studies among different observers, the presence of more than one asbestos body on light microscopy has been recommended recently as one of the morphologic requirements (together with peribronchiolar fibrosis) for the tissue diagnosis of asbestosis. However, data that correlate the occurrence of asbestos bodies in paraffin-embedded tissue sections with the quantification of asbestos bodies by tissue digestion techniques have not been available. The authors counted the asbestos bodies in multiple paraffin-embedded sections of lung tissues stained for iron, and compared those numbers with the asbestos body counts determined by hypochlorite digestion of wet formalin-fixed lung tissue in six cases of asbestosis or asbestos-associated neoplasia. When adjustments were made for asbestos body orientation in tissue sections, shrinkage of sections during processing, and conversion of lung volume to wet weight, the agreement between the two techniques was excellent (r = 0.98, P less than 0.001). An average of two asbestos bodies on 2 X 2 cm (4 cm2) iron-stained tissue sections 5 microns thick is equivalent to approximately 200 asbestos bodies per gram of wet fixed lung tissue.
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