The usefulness of computed tomography in detecting asbestos-related pleural abnormalities in people who had indeterminate chest radiographs: the Libby, MT, experience

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2005;208(1-2):87-99. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2005.01.019.


This epidemiological study was conducted to determine whether high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) is useful to screen for pulmonary abnormalities in people exposed to vermiculite containing asbestos. During June-September 2001, we evaluated HRCT of 353 people in Libby, MT, who had been exposed to asbestiform minerals associated with vermiculite. Of these, 334 participants of the summer 2000 medical testing program underwent HRCT of the chest at St. John's Lutheran Hospital and 19 eligible people who recently had undergone an HRCT scan at the same facility and under the same testing protocol allowed the study reviewers to use that scan. All 353 study participants were former vermiculite mine/mill workers (n = 55), their household contacts (n = 99), and people exposed to vermiculite through recreational or other activities (n = 199). Participants' 2000 medical testing results indicated only one of the three B-reader chest radiograph reviewers had reported a pleural abnormality (indeterminate chest radiograph). Three expert computer tomography (CT) scan evaluators reviewed the HRCT scans and identified pleural abnormalities in 98 (27.8%) of the 353 participants whose previous chest radiographs were classified indeterminate. Of these 98 people, 69 (70.4%) were either former vermiculite mine/mill workers or household contacts, and 40 (40.8%) showed pleural calcification on HRCT. Thirty out of the 40 people with pleural calcification reported having no occupational exposure to either Libby vermiculite or asbestos. Our findings indicate that low-dose HRCT can be considered for screening certain former vermiculite mine/mill workers and their household contacts who have indeterminate chest radiographs and may be useful for diagnosing a suspicious finding on a chest radiograph, particularly in a high-risk person.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aluminum Silicates / chemistry
  • Asbestos / adverse effects*
  • Calcinosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Calcinosis / etiology
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Mining
  • Montana
  • Pleural Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pleural Diseases / etiology*
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*


  • Aluminum Silicates
  • vermiculite
  • Asbestos