Four patients exposed to isocyanate vapour developed dyspnoea associated with restriction and reduced gas transfer as well as moderate airways obstruction on lung function testing. In one patient bilateral radiographic shadowing was present and an open lung biopsy was performed. The microscopic appearances ranged from acute inflammation to end-stage fibrosis but the centribular accentuation of disease and the presence of areas resembling bronchopulmonary aspergillosis suggested that the process was a hypersensitivity response to inhaled allergen. Challenge tests with albumin and toluene diisocyanate-albumin were carried out in sensitized and control rabbits. The sensitized animals developed extensive lung damage of the type associated with an Arthus reaction. It is suggested that patients exposed to isocyanates may occasionally develop a hypersensitivity pneumonitis rather than the more usual asthmatic syndrome.
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