Pleural Plaques

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This is a guideline for Clinicians

Pleural plaques are areas of thickened tissue within the parietal and occasionally the visceral pleura. They develop following inhalation of asbestos fibres, but only develop after an interval of 20 to 30 years.

Plaques are the most common manifestation of asbestos exposure which is usually occupational. They are almost always asymptomatic and are discovered as incidental findings on chest imaging.  

Pleural plaques are completely benign with no malignant potential and only signify that an individual has been exposed to asbestos. They are not associated with an increased risk of development of asbestos related disease above that resulting from asbestos exposure.

Management

Patients with pleural plaques as their only finding do not require treatment, regular imaging or specialist review.

It is important to reassure patients that pleural plaques are not a dangerous finding and have no malignant potential. However, as they have been exposed to asbestos, provide advice about the potential risk of developing more serious asbestos related conditions and relevant red flag symptoms.

Appropriate patients should receive counselling about smoking cessation as, combined with asbestos exposure, smoking increases their risk of developing lung cancer.

Compension

People who have had occupational exposure to asbestos resulting from employment in Scotland may be entitled to compensation from their employer and they should be directed to the Scottish Charity Asbestos Action: https://www.asbestosaction.org.uk/ to seek further advice.

It is important to note that claims need to be made within 3 years of diagnosis of pleural plaques, otherwise claims for pleural plaques or any other asbestos related condition the person may develop at a later date could be time-barred. 

Social Prescribing Guidance
Further information for healthcare professionals
Patient information

Patients or their family may feel anxious about having been exposed to asbestos and may find the following sources of information and support helpful:

Editorial Information

Last reviewed: 30 April 2022

Next review: 30 April 2025

Author(s): Specialty Respiratory Research Doctor

Approved By: TAM Subgroup of ADTC

Reviewer Name(s): Specialty Respiratory Research Doctor,

Document Id: TAM493