Silicosis CT

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Aparna Vuppala, M.B.B.S. [2]


  • High resolution computed tomography (HRCT) is helpful for patients with an atypical clinical presentation or atypical findings on chest radiograph. A baseline HRCT scan in patients with radiographic findings of silicosis is usually obtained to document the presence and extent of nodules, emphysema, and other silica-related abnormalities that may progress in the future.

Computed Tomography scan

  • A CT scan can also provide a mode detailed analyses of the nodules, and can reveal cavitation due to concomitant mycobacterial infection. In the diagnosis of silicosis, HRCT scans are superior to chest X-rays, both for the early detection of the initial phases of the disease and for the identification of PMF.[1]
  • The typical HRCT findings in simple silicosis are
  • Bilateral,
  • Symmetric,
  • Centrilobular, and perilymphatic nodules
  • With sharp margination.
  • These nodules calcify in 10 to 20 percent of patients.
  • However, HRCT is usually not necessary in simple silicosis unless fever or atypical radiographic features such as spiculated nodules, a single nodule of substantially larger size than the others are noted [2][3].
  • In complicated silicosis HRCT is superior to conventional chest radiography for documentation of conglomerate lesions and emphysematous changes. The HRCT findings consist of
  • In a small series that compared pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (PAP) and acute silicosis, the most common HRCT finding in PAP was “crazy paving”, while the most common finding in acute silicosis was dependent consolidation and nodular calcification[5].
  • Although pleural effusions are unusual in silicosis, pleural thickening appears to be common among patients with more severe disease[6].


  1. Lopes AJ, Mogami R, Capone D, Tessarollo B, de Melo PL, Jansen JM (2008). "High-resolution computed tomography in silicosis: correlation with chest radiography and pulmonary function tests". J Bras Pneumol. 34 (5): 264–72. PMID 18545821.
  2. Talini D, Paggiaro PL, Falaschi F, Battolla L, Carrara M, Petrozzino M; et al. (1995). "Chest radiography and high resolution computed tomography in the evaluation of workers exposed to silica dust: relation with functional findings". Occup Environ Med. 52 (4): 262–7. PMC 1128205. PMID 7795742.
  3. Meijer E, Tjoe Nij E, Kraus T, van der Zee JS, van Delden O, van Leeuwen M; et al. (2011). "Pneumoconiosis and emphysema in construction workers: results of HRCT and lung function findings". Occup Environ Med. 68 (7): 542–6. doi:10.1136/oem.2010.055616. PMID 21355064.
  4. Marchiori E, Souza CA, Barbassa TG, Escuissato DL, Gasparetto EL, Souza AS (2007). "Silicoproteinosis: high-resolution CT findings in 13 patients". AJR Am J Roentgenol. 189 (6): 1402–6. doi:10.2214/AJR.07.2402. PMID 18029877.
  5. Souza CA, Marchiori E, Gonçalves LP, Meirelles GS, Zanetti G, Escuissato DL; et al. (2012). "Comparative study of clinical, pathological and HRCT findings of primary alveolar proteinosis and silicoproteinosis". Eur J Radiol. 81 (2): 371–8. doi:10.1016/j.ejrad.2010.12.012. PMID 21211921.
  6. Arakawa H, Honma K, Saito Y, Shida H, Morikubo H, Suganuma N; et al. (2005). "Pleural disease in silicosis: pleural thickening, effusion, and invagination". Radiology. 236 (2): 685–93. doi:10.1148/radiol.2362041363. PMID 16040925.

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