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Radiological progression and its predictive risk factors in silicosis


OBJECTIVES To investigate the risk factors predicting radiological progression in silicosis in a prospective cohort study of patients with silicosis who were previously exposed to silica from granite dust.

METHODS From among a total of 260 patients with silicosis contracted from granite work, 141 with available serial chest x ray films of acceptable quality taken over a period of 2 to 17 (mean 7.5) years, were selected for study. Ninety four (66.7%) had ended exposure 5 or more years perviously (mean 10.1 years, maximum 28 years). Radiological progression was assessed by paired comparison of the initial and most recent radiographs, with two or more steps of increase in profusion of small opacities according to the 12 point scale of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) classification of radiographs of pneumoconiosis, taken from the majority reading by a panel of three independent readers.

RESULTS Overall, 37% of patients with silicosis had radiological evidence of progression. From the initial radiographs, 24 (31.6%) of those with radiological profusion category 1, 15 (37.5%) of those with radiological profusion category 2, and 13 (52%) of those with complicated silicosis (including all seven with category 3 profusion of small opacities) showed radiological progression. As expected, progression was more likely to be found after longer periods of follow up (the interval between the two chest x ray films) with a 20% increased odds of progression for every additional year of follow up. After adjustment for varying intervals of follow up, the probability of radiological progression was found to be significant if large opacities were present in the initial chestx ray film. Progression was also less likely to be found among those who had ended exposure to silica longer ago, although the result was of borderline significance (p=0.07). Tuberculosis was also associated with increased likelihood of progression (borderline significance).

CONCLUSIONS There is a high probability of radiological progression in silicosis after high levels of exposure to granite dust among workers who were followed up for up to 17 years. A significant risk factor is the extent of radiological opacities in the initial chestx ray film. The probability of progression is also likely to be reduced with longer periods after the end of exposure.

  • silicosis
  • radiological progression
  • granite quarry

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