Five patients over the age of 40 with malignant mesothelioma of the pleura presented with a spontaneous pneumothorax in the course of five years. The diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma was not suspected at surgery but was made by histological examination of the pleurectomy specimens. During this time 91 pleurectomies for recurrent pneumothorax were performed, 45 in patients over the age of 40; malignant mesothelioma therefore accounted for 11% of spontaneous pneumothorax requiring pleurectomy in this age group. The association of spontaneous pneumothorax and malignant mesothelioma is not emphasised in current publications. These five cases highlight the need for all pleurectomy specimens in cases of spontaneous pneumothorax to be sent for histological examination and for a full occupational history to be taken, especially in older patients.
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