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Archive: Dr. Tom 5
Posted December 21st, 2004

Portable nebulizers and air purifiers
Q: My question is that I have been looking at portable nebulizers and wondered if you had any information on them. Is an ionic or compressor better?

Also, we were looking into air purifiers but after reading the consumers guide report, it doesn’t look like the room air purifiers do much good. Do you have any information on them? Would appreciate any information you could give me. Thanks!


A: Dear Rita,
I agree that room purifiers do not do much good. They do take some dust out of the air, but not all of the pollutants. I have not heard of an ion nebulizer. You may be referring to an ultrasonic nebulizer. These put out a large volume of small particle mist. They are not used by many, and the advantages are debatable.

Dr. Tom


Inhaled a large amount of granite stone dust
Q: I recently spent about an hour dry vacuuming a large quantity of leftover stone dust particles (about 7 gallons worth) out of the back up our truck in an open garage.

I was in a dust fog for most of the time and was covered head to toe in gray dust. .

My husband was horrified, saying that the one hour of intense exposure to granite stone dust in the air may have caused permanent lung damage. I didn't even think of it at the time, but will be more careful in the future. Should I be worried or have any type of test done for lung function?


A: Dear J., I doubt if one day of such exposure will cause harm, but repeated exposure to such dusts is indeed dangerous and can cause a disease known as silicosis.

If you do not have any symptoms, tests are not needed at this point. I assume you do not smoke. If you do, and particularly if you have cough, mucus, wheeze of shortness of breath you should have spirometry done in a doctors office or clinic to measure your airflow and volume. All primary care physicians and pulmonologists should offer simple office spirometry.

Dr. Tom


Frequency of chest X-ray for COPD
Q: Dear Doctor,
I have COPD and was wondering how often I should have a lung x-ray. I was diagnosed in 1991 and have only had 2 at the beginning of treatment. I was told I had a lot of lung scaring. Thank You for all you do!!!


A: Dear Betty, A chest x-ray is not a good way to track COPD. It is useful in diagnosing associated lung cancer. With scarring, you should have at least an x-ray every six months, and a CT of your chest would be in order for greater detail of what is going on.

Dr. Tom


Travel to higher altitudes
Q: A patient with congestive heart failure, polycythemia, and COPD asked me recently if it would be safe for him to visit Salt Lake City, Utah with an elevation around 4000 ft. He does have home oxygen that he uses PRN when at home. He lives in Iowa. What should I tell him?


A: Dear LuAnne, Salt Lake is closer to 5000 feet, just like Denver and Albuquerque. Your friend will need oxygen there if he needs it at home.

Dr. Tom


Nodule found on chest x-ray
Q: My chest x-ray reveals a small nodule in Left apices. CT scan could not identify it further. Physician suggests I wait 6 months and get another chest x-ray. I am concerned that if it is cancerous, it may be too late. What is your opinion?


A: Dear Kathi, Most small nodules are not cancer. Waiting six months is not dangerous. Some would recommend a repeat in three months.

If there is growth it needs to be removed. It could be biopsied via a needle, but if it is cancer, it needs to come out anyway. Sometimes cancers are not found by needle biopsies, so most experts just take them out if they grow. Often this can be done by a small operation via a scope.

Dr. Tom


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