Ninety four dairy farmers were investigated by chest radiography, pulmonary function tests, and bronchoalveolar lavage. They were divided into five groups--1: 11 subjects with acute farmer's lung; 2: 25 subjects with previously diagnosed farmer's lung who had stayed on their farm; 3: 15 farmers with previously diagnosed farmer's lung who had left the farm; 4: 23 precipitin positive symptomless farmers; 5: 20 precipitin negative symptomless farmers. The study evaluated the relationships between radiographic changes measured with a scoring system derived from the International Labour Office (ILO) classification, the results of pulmonary function tests, and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid. Thirty eight subjects had radiographic evidence of interstitial pulmonary infiltrates. Group 1 had the highest percentage of lymphocytes recovered by bronchoalveolar lavage (mean 66.3 (SD 19.2]. For all subjects carbon monoxide transfer factor (TLCO) and total lung capacity were negatively correlated with radiographic changes (r = -0.45 and -0.30; p less than 0.001 and less than 0.01 respectively). TLCO was also negatively correlated with radiographic change in group 2 (r = -0.59, p less than 0.005). The percentage of lavage lymphocytes was correlated with radiographic changes for all subjects (r = 0.36, p less than 0.001), but this correlation was not seen within groups. This study shows good correlation between radiographic abnormalities, pulmonary function changes and the cellular composition of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid.
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