Research Article

Radiological progression and lung function in silicosis: a ten year follow up study.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.295.6591.164 (Published 18 July 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:164

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  1. T P Ng,
  2. S L Chan,
  3. K P Lam
  1. Labour Department, Hong Kong.

    Abstract

    Chest radiographs and spirometric tests were performed on 81 patients who had silicosis from two granite quarries in 1975, 73 of whom were followed up for two to 10 (mean 7.2) years. Each patient's initial and most recent chest radiographs were assessed independently by three experienced readers, and the yearly declines in forced expiratory volume in one second and forced vital capacity were estimated from two to four (mean 3.45) serial spirometric readings. Estimates of individual dust exposure were based on extensive historical data on hygiene. All but 11 patients were no longer exposed to dust by the start of follow up, but 24 (45%) of 53 patients who had simple silicosis and 11 (55%) of 20 who had the complicated disease showed radiological evidence of disease progression. In patients who had simple silicosis and showed no radiological progression the yearly declines in forced expiratory volume in one second and forced vital capacity were modest (64 ml/year and 59 ml/year, respectively), whereas significantly greater declines in lung function were seen in those who showed radiological evidence of progression (97 ml/year and 95 ml/year, respectively). In addition to radiological progression the previous average dust concentration to which patients had been exposed also influenced declines in both forced expiratory volume in one second and forced vital capacity after allowing for the effects of age, smoking, duration of exposure, history of tuberculosis, initial state of disease, and baseline lung function. The probability of radiological progression was most strongly influenced by the average dust concentration previously exposed to. The progression of simple silicosis is thus accompanied by appreciable declines in lung function and is strongly affected by previous levels of exposure to dust.