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Glossary of Asbestos-Related Terms

Alveoli – tiny sacks at the end of your bronchial tubes called alveoli are where the oxygen from the air enters your blood, and the carbon dioxide from your body goes into the air. Thickening of tissues and scarring caused by asbestos fibres can prevent oxygen and carbon dioxide from travelling between the alveoli and the blood cells, so breathing becomes much less efficient

Arterial blood gases – measurement of the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the arterial blood

Asbestosis – progressive fibrosis of the lungs leading to loss of lung volume and function

Bronchi – large airways in the lung

Bronchial carcinoma – lung cancer

Bronchoscopy – a procedure during which an examiner uses a viewing tube to evaluate a patient’s lung and airways

Chemotherapy – use of anti-cancer drugs to destroy tumour cells

Chest drain – a plastic tube passed through the chest wall to lie in the space between the lung and the chest wall

Decortication – removal of the constricting layer of abnormal tissue from the surface of the lung

Diffuse pleural thickening – widespread thickening of the pleura as a result of exposure to asbestos

Dyspnoea – breathlessness

Dyspnoeic – breathless

Fibrosis – the formation of excessive connective scar tissue as an attempt to repair damage or as a reaction to foreign material (e.g. asbestos fibres)

Forced Expiratory Volume – FEV1, volume exhaled during the first second of a maximal expiration after maximum inspiration, a measure of the ability to exhale rapidly

Forced Vital Capacity – FVC, total volume of air breathed out during maximal expiration after maximum inspiration, a measure of the lung volume available during maximum breathing

Gas transfer – measures the transfer of carbon monoxide from the gas spaces of the lung to the blood so measuring the efficiency of gas transfer through the lung, TLCO measuring total gas transfer which is not corrected for lung volume and KCO being corrected for the appropriate lung volume

Haemoglobin – measurement of the amount of oxygen carrying haemoglobin in each litre of blood

Hypertension – high blood pressure

Infarction – death of tissue from loss of blood supply

Lobes – divisions of the lung, there being three lobes on the right and two on the left

Mechanical ventilation – support of breathing with a mechanical ventilator, via an endotracheal tube or a tracheosotomy tube

Mesothelial cells – cells of the pleura. These produce the fluid that usually fills the gap between the parietal and visceral layers of pleura. These cells sometimes become cancerous producing the condition “Mesothelioma”

Mesothelioma – malignant tumour of the inner lining of the chest wall produced by exposure to asbestos – invariably fatal

Metaplasia – abnormal cell structure not quite reaching the level required to allow classification of the cell as malignant

Mucosa – inner lining of a hollow organ, for example the inner lining of the bronchus

Peritoneum – lining between your bowel and the abdominal and pelvic cavities

Pleura – a thin, transparent double membrane that covers the lungs and lines the inside of the chest walls. There are two layers of this membrane. The inner (visceral) layer of the pleura is attached to the lungs and the outer (parietal) layer is attached to the chest wall. The pleural membranes prevent the lung from making direct contact with the chest wall and the diaphragm. Also referred to as the “serous coat”

Pleural cavity – a closed space within the chest walls that houses the lungs

Pleural effusion abnormal collection of fluid in the pleural space between the lung and the chest wall

Pleural plaque raised area of calcified tissue of the pleura, most commonly on the lower chest walls and diaphragm. These changes are visible on x-ray but in most cases will not produce any symptoms

Pleural space – thin space between the lung and the chest wall

Pleural thickening – thickening of the pleura

Pleurectomy – surgical removal of the pleura

Pleur-e-vac – a container used to drain excess fluid from the lungs as part of treatment for pleural effusion

Pleurisy – inflammation of the inner lining of the chest wall often resulting in chest pain worse on coughing and deep breathing

Pleurodesis – The introduction of chemicals into the lung so as to cause an irritation between the two layers (pleura) covering the lung. This irritation causes an obliteration of the space between the layers where excess fluid accumulated during a pleural effusion. It is carried out to prevent the fluid building up again

Pleuro-peritoneal shunt – special plastic tube inserted internally to link the pleural space within the chest to the peritoneal space around the intestine, allowing the fluid to drain from the chest to the abdomen where it is better absorbed

Radiotherapy – use of irradiation to destroy malignant tumour cells

Restrictive pattern – abnormality in lung volumes due to restriction or loss of lung elasticity from fibrosis

Sputum – phlegm

Tachycardia – a fast heart rate which can be caused by an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the pleural space known as “pleural effusion”

Thoracentesis – removal of a sample of the fluid from a pleural effusion

Thoracic – chest-related (e.g. thoracic surgeon = a chest surgeon)

Thoracotomy – surgical exploration of the inside of the chest by an incision between the ribs

Thoracoscopy – A surgical procedure during which a thin, tubelike instrument containing a tiny camera is inserted through one of several small incisions made in your side. This camera allows the surgeon to view your lungs on a video monitor. Surgical instruments are inserted through other incisions. When the procedure is finished, one or more tubes may be temporarily placed in the chest to drain fluid and air. The incisions are then closed with sutures or staples

Trachea – the tube that connects your mouth and nose to your lungs. You can also call it the windpipe. It is in the front of your neck, and is very hard with tough rings around it. Only air goes into your trachea. (Food and drinks go down a different tube called the “esophagus”)

Tracheotomy – an incision into the trachea (windpipe) that forms a temporary or permanent opening which is called a tracheostomy. Sometimes the terms “tracheotomy” and “tracheostomy” are used interchangeably

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