Scanning electron microscopic analysis of mineral fiber content of lung tissue in the evaluation of diffuse pulmonary fibrosis.
The mineral fiber content of lung parenchyma in 24 cases of diffuse pulmonary fibrosis of unknown cause was determined by scanning electron microscopy and compared with that of 36 autopsy cases of histologically confirmed asbestosis and 20 autopsy cases of patients with normal lungs. Fibers were isolated from the lung using a hypochlorite digestion technique and collected on the surface of a polycarbonate filter. In addition, the types of fibers present (asbestos vs. other mineral fibers) were determined by energy dispersive x-ray analysis (EDXA). When the histologic grade of fibrosis in the cases of asbestosis was compared with the uncoated fiber content by means of linear regression analysis, it was determined that the fiber content of the 24 cases of diffuse pulmonary fibrosis of unknown cause was below the 95% confidence limit for asbestosis in every instance. Furthermore, the majority of fibers analyzed by EDXA were not asbestos in the cases with diffuse pulmonary fibrosis of unknown cause, whereas more than 90% of the fibers from the asbestosis cases were commercial amphiboles (amosite or crocidolite). It was concluded that most patients with advanced pulmonary fibrosis whose tissue samples do not meet histologic criteria for asbestosis do not have asbestos-induced fibrosis, even though there may be some history of exposure to asbestos. In such cases, scanning electron microscopic analysis of mineral fiber content and EDXA of the types of fibers present often provide useful information with regard to the correct classification of these cases.
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