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On The Diagnosis Of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: A Necropsy-based Study Of 171 Cases (1997–2016)

P. Barbieri, D. Mirabelli, C. Magnani, A. Brollo
Published 2018 · Medicine

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Background: Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) diagnosis is known to be difficult. We report on the diagnostic elements available in life in an MPM necropsy case series and describe the frequency of non-neoplastic asbestos-related diseases as biological exposure indices. Methods: We reviewed pathologic and clinical records of an unselected series of autopsies (1977–2016) in patients with MPM employed in the Monfalcone shipyards or living with shipyard workers. We assessed the consistency with autopsy results of diagnoses based on, respectively, radiologic, cytologic, and histologic findings, with and without immunophenotyping. Results: Data on 171 cases were available: for 169, autopsy confirmed the MPM diagnosis. In life, 119 cases had histologic confirmation of diagnosis, whereas 7 were negative; all cases without immunophenotypization were autoptic MPMs. Cytology alone had been positive in 18 autoptic MPM cases, negative in 14. Radiologic imaging alone had been positive in another 16, negative in 11. In the 2 cases not confirmed at autopsy, MPM had been suspected by chest computed tomography only. Bilateral pleural plaques were found in 144 and histologic evidence of asbestosis in 62 cases. Conclusions: Autopsies confirmed 169/171 cases, including cases that would not be considered as certain based on diagnosis in life. Radiologic imaging, cytologic examination of pleural effusions, or both combined had low sensitivity but high positive predictive value: when they are positive, proceeding to thoracoscopy should be justified. MPM has been correctly diagnosed even without immunohistochemistry. The prevalence of pleural plaques and asbestosis was high due to severity of asbestos exposures in these cases.
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