Pulmonary talcosis: imaging findings

Lung. 2010 Apr;188(2):165-71. doi: 10.1007/s00408-010-9230-y. Epub 2010 Feb 13.


Talc is a mineral widely used in the ceramic, paper, plastics, rubber, paint, and cosmetic industries. Four distinct forms of pulmonary disease caused by talc have been defined. Three of them (talcosilicosis, talcoasbestosis, and pure talcosis) are associated with aspiration and differ in the composition of the inhaled substance. The fourth form, a result of intravenous administration of talc, is seen in drug users who inject medications intended for oral use. The disease most commonly affects men, with a mean age in the fourth decade of life. Presentation of patients with talc granulomatosis can range from asymptomatic to fulminant disease. Symptomatic patients typically present with nonspecific complaints, including progressive exertional dyspnea, and cough. Late complications include chronic respiratory failure, emphysema, pulmonary arterial hypertension, and cor pulmonale. History of occupational exposure or of drug addiction is the major clue to the diagnosis. The high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) finding of small centrilobular nodules associated with heterogeneous conglomerate masses containing high-density amorphous areas, with or without panlobular emphysema in the lower lobes, is highly suggestive of pulmonary talcosis. The characteristic histopathologic feature in talc pneumoconiosis is the striking appearance of birefringent, needle-shaped particles of talc seen within the giant cells and in the areas of pulmonary fibrosis with the use of polarized light. In conclusion, computed tomography can play an important role in the diagnosis of pulmonary talcosis, since suggestive patterns may be observed. The presence of these patterns in drug abusers or in patients with an occupational history of exposure to talc is highly suggestive of pulmonary talcosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biopsy
  • Female
  • Granuloma, Foreign-Body / diagnosis*
  • Granuloma, Foreign-Body / etiology
  • Granuloma, Foreign-Body / therapy
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Pneumoconiosis / diagnosis*
  • Pneumoconiosis / etiology
  • Pneumoconiosis / therapy
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / complications
  • Talc / adverse effects*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Talc