The sensitivity of detection of asbestos bodies in sputa and bronchial washings

Acta Cytol. Sep-Oct 1988;32(5):647-50.


While asbestos bodies (ABs) in sputum and/or bronchial washings are highly specific markers for significant asbestos exposure, comparison of the sensitivity between sputum cytology and bronchial washing cytology for the detection of ABs had not been documented. Review of the files of the Cytopathology Laboratory, Methodist Hospital, Houston, Texas, for the period 1973 to 1984 identified 11 patients with slides available for review who (1) had been examined by both sputum cytology and bronchial washing cytology and (2) had at least one specimen positive for ABs. Of the 11 evaluable cases, all had ABs in the bronchial washings but ony 6 had ABs in the sputum. In addition, iron stain (e.g., the Prussian blue stain) was found to be more sensitive than the Papanicolaou stain for the detection of ABs in these cases. These findings indicate that iron-stained bronchial washing specimens should be preferred for the cytologic detection of asbestos exposure.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Asbestos / analysis*
  • Asbestosis / diagnosis*
  • Bronchi / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sputum / analysis*
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Asbestos