IS case 494: Lime dust pneumoconiosis

Scott Wilbur, MD

University of Rochester

Publication Date: 2010-08-30


Patient is a 33-year-old male with severe interstitial lung disease seen to rule out new infiltrate versus fluid overload.


Plain chest radiographs demonstrated severe, diffuse fibrotic changes in the bilateral lungs with pleural thickening predominantly at the apices. CT demonstrated severe parenchymal fibrosis with large cysts/cystic bronchiectasis with apical predominance and pleural thickening.


Lime dust pneumoconiosis


Exposure to many types of dust and airborne particles can lead to chronic lung-related disease known as pneumoconiosis. The most common form of the disease is silicosis, which is the result of occupational exposure to free silica. Other types of inhalants include lime dust, coal dust (coal worker’s pneumoconiosis), asbestos, beryllium dust, and iron dust. Common occupations with exposure to these materials are various mineral, mining, and steel industries.

Lime dust, or calcium oxide, can be found in cement, lime, and plaster industries as well as lime handling plants. Limestone is used in the chemical industry as a source of lime for producing carbon dioxide and calcium compounds. There have also been reports of lung disease following exposure to soda-lime dust in closed and semi-closed diving apparatus.

Patients with lime dust pneumoconiosis commonly present with symptoms of dyspnea, cough, and increased sputum production. Long term exposure to lime dust can lead to pulmonary fibrosis as a result of chronic inflammation (alveolitis) followed by repair and fibrosis. Histologic examination of sections of lung in patients who died from lime dust pneumoconiosis showed lesions consisting of dense fibrous tissue with a typical whorled appearance, very similar to that seen in silicosis.


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