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Estimating the direct and indirect costs of asbestosis

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on June 16th, 2020

Asbestosis is caused by years of chronic inflammation and scarring of lung tissue due to asbestos fibers. In addition to general treatment, asbestosis requires a lot of tests and checkups to ensure the best life expectancy possible. Knowing what kind of expenses to expect can help patients and families stay one step ahead.

Asbestosis is a chronic lung condition, which stems from prolonged exposure to asbestos. The accumulated, inhaled asbestos fibers produce scarring and thickening of the lung tissue. Significant scarring inhibits oxygen transfer to the lungs causing increasing difficulty in breathing.

Currently, there is no cure for asbestosis, but treatment may slow down the diseases and alleviate symptoms. Researchers and doctors have been able to extend patient life expectancy longer than ever before with innovative treatments, which are often very costly.

Asbestosis annualized costs totals more than $14,000 per patient

Asbestosis is a progressive disease, and as a result, patients need medication and treatment throughout their lives. In addition to the clinical and human burden, asbestosis is a costly disease, as reported in a few recent studies. Types of medical and non-medical costs include:

  • Visits to healthcare providers/doctor appointments
  • Laboratory tests
  • Medications to help open the airways to make breathing easier
  • Treatments such as oxygen therapy or surgical procedures
  • Costs involved in participating in a clinical trial
  • Transport and travel
  • Costs of household upkeep and family care during treatment, such as childcare
  • Costs of living due to treatment and surveillance
  • Long-term in-patient nursing care at specialized facilities
  • Hospice care

Asbestosis places a heavy economic burden on patients affected by this life-threatening condition, with mean annual costs for admission and inpatient care totaling more than $14,000 per patient.

The costs associated with asbestosis rise dramatically as the disease progresses

Asbestosis treatment generally includes medication to slow lung scarring. However, the condition significantly decreases the overall quality of life, and as the disease progresses, increased treatment is required.

Pleural effusion, which refers to excessive buildup of fluid between your lungs and chest cavity, is a common symptom of asbestosis. In certain circumstances, surgery may be recommended for asbestosis; one likely surgical procedure is a thoracentesis - an invasive medical procedure done when there is too much fluid in the pleural space. The goal is to drain the excess fluid releasing the pressure in the lungs and making it easier to breathe. The cost of thoracentesis ranges from $791 to $1,434.

In very severe cases, asbestosis patients may be candidates for a lung transplant - the estimated total cost of lung transplantation is between $430,000 and $580,000.

Patients with asbestosis have an increased chance of developing mesothelioma and lung cancer

Because asbestosis can get worse over time, severe cases can place a significant strain on a person's health and shorten their life expectancy.

Over time, asbestos fibers can cause enough genetic and cellular damage to cause lung cells to turn cancerous. Patients with asbestosis have a higher risk of developing other serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:

If you have a persistent cough and trouble catching your breath, you should tell your doctor about any possible exposure to asbestos. If exposure has taken place, a complete physical examination will be carried out, as well as a chest X-ray and a lung function test. If pleural plaques or diffuse pleural thickening are found on radiography of the chest, a lung biopsy will often be carried out, which will enable physicians to test the tissue for asbestos fibers.

Asbestos claims are one way that patients and their families seek compensation to help with medical bills and other health care costs

If you have been diagnosed with asbestosis, you may be eligible to claim compensation. In the past, major clusters of exposure have occurred among miners and millers of asbestos, asbestos products manufacturers, construction workers, and shipbuilders. Veterans who served in certain military occupations between 1930 and 1980 are also at risk of developing asbestosis.

Many of the medical treatments that can decrease the progression of asbestosis and increase life expectancy come at high financial costs. We strongly recommend you contact an asbestos attorney, if you or a loved one has been recently diagnosed with asbestosis, in order to pursue full and fair compensation consisting of payment of past and future medical expenses.