Pleural plaques refers to localized scarring (fibrosis) resulting from deposits of collagen fibers that are formed due to exposure to asbestos. They are the most common manifestation of asbestos deposition. Usually pleural plaque is inserted in the parietal pleura (within the membrane), but in rare cases it is also close to the thoracic cavity.
Pleural plaques appears for the first time over 20 years after a person exposed to asbestos. Before the 1970s, when asbestos regulations came into force, countless workers in industries such as mining, construction and shipping were exposed to hazardous levels of asbestos. Since it takes about 30 to 40 years probably the last great wave of occupation related to the case represent symptoms asbestos-related diseases such as asbestos and mesothelioma victims who have been developing asbestos.
Cause of pleural plaque
In contrast to pleural thickening, pleural plaques are rarely formed for reasons other than ascites, although some researchers believe that inhaled erionite fibers may lead to the formation of pleural plaques in some cases. (Erionite can also be a cause of mesothelioma). Check out our articles on Erionite and Mesothelioma for more information.) Therefore, if they appear on an X-ray or CT scan, doctors immediately suspect damage caused by asbestos. About 50% of people who exposed asbestos for prolonged periods develop pleuraplaques.
All diseases associated with asbestos occur because unlike other particles in the air, asbestos fibers are small enough to overwhelm the natural filtration system of the lungs and become embedded in the body tissue where they cause inflammation and scarring.
The diagnosis of pleural plaques
Unlike diseases that go hand in hand with pleura plaques, pleural plaques itself is not associated with any symptoms. Consequently, a pleural plaque is often detected on an X-ray or CT scan. It looks like pleural thickening on an x-ray image, a CT scan appears as local areas of pleural thickening, sometimes described as as “mesas” or “table mountains”. And on a microscopic level, pleura plaques appear as collagen bundles, which resemble basket weave.
Pleural plaque, asbestosis, and mesothelioma
As pleural thickening, pleural plaque can be benign (not cancerous), cannot becomes malignant, and is not necessarily a sign of asbestos pulmonary disease. However, many people who develop pleural plaques also develop pleural effusion, asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma and other diseases associated with asbestos inhalation.
Pleural plaques can even be formed with intermittent exposure to low doses. This contrasts with asbestosis or pulmonary fibrosis, which develops after a certain dose threshold has been exceeded. Pleura plaques is however almost always present in patients with asbestosis and is common in patients with mesothelioma.
While non-cancerous forms of pulmonary asbestosis can be treated with medicines (inflammation) and oxygen, malignant mesothelioma is fatal and almost always worsened and leads to death. While there are treatments for mesothelioma cancer, mesothelioma treatment consists largely of measures to relieve the discomfort and pain (palliative treatment).
There are three types of mesothelioma: pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs; Peritoneal mesothelioma, found in the abdomen lining; And pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the heart. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common.
Mesothelioma is still divided by the following three types of cells:
There is ample evidence to suggest that some companies knowingly exposed their employees to lethal asbestos particles. The willful negligence of these companies often serves as grounds for pleural plaque lawsuits. For more information on pleural plaque lawsuits, contact a mesothelioma attorney.