Using New Technique, Doctors Find Origin of Asbestos Disease Pain

3–D Model of Chest Cavity Shows Damage from Pleural Plaques

July 31, 2009 — Using a new radiography enhancement of CT scans, doctors now have the ability to study the progression of asbestos disease in patients. This new technique may lead to a better understanding of the increased pain associated with asbestos diseases. The new imaging approach creates a three–dimensional view of the chest cavity and allows doctors to visualize damage from asbestos exposure in greater detail and see damage from asbestos diseases at a much earlier stage.

The imagining technology, developed by Carmen Endress M.D. at Wayne State University School of Medicine, enhances the images from a 64–slice high resolution CT scan to create a 3–D model. With access to this new technology, doctors have been able to follow the development of a patient's pleural plaque over a three–year period. As the pleural plaques increased, doctors could see them causing erosion on the interior walls of the ribs. According to Michael Harbut, M.D., "This action of the pleural plaque against the covering of the bone and the bone itself is a biologically plausible and an anatomically logical explanation of the unrelenting pain which some patients experience."

New imaging techniques like this have potential for significant public health benefits. For patients, this includes earlier detection, better disease differentiation and more targeted pain treatment plans. Doctors will be able to collect data to help understand why some patients have uncontrolled pain from pleural thickening. By diagnosing diseases earlier, job sites or primary sources of asbestos exposure can be identified in the event they had not previously been suspected—this could prevent others from being exposed and potentially developing an asbestos disease. With a better understanding of the characteristics of asbestos disease, the potential increases for improved treatments.

For victims of asbestos diseases and asbestos attorneys, this development can potentially help in the courtroom, too. As the accuracy of diagnosis increases, identifying which diseases are asbestos related (and not something else) reduces the prospect of a misdiagnosis.

For more information about this imaging technology, please see EHS Today's excerpt on the Vitrea imaging softw