Skip to content

Coal Worker's Pneumoconiosis: Diagnosis

Make an Appointment

This information was reviewed and approved by E Brigitte Gottschall, MD (9/30/2014).

Diagnosing and monitoring coal worker’s pneumoconiosis (Black Lung) is a multi-step process and may include the following:

  • An office visit with a physician is always required to obtain and document a detailed medical and occupational/environmental exposure history. The physician also performs a physical exam.

  • Lung function testing (also called pulmonary function testing [PFT]), to determine how much air your lungs can hold, how quickly you can expel air from your lungs, and how well your lungs can exchange oxygen.

  • Imaging studies such as a chest x-ray or a more detailed study of the lung with a chest computed tomography (chest CT scan) are used to visualize the lining of the lung (pleura) and the lung tissue (lung parenchyma). Physicians trained as B-readers may review the chest x-ray to determine whether a dust induced lung disease such as asbestosis is present.

  • An arterial blood gas (ABG) at rest and with exertion may be performed to determine oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood, which can be abnormal in patients with dust induced lung diseases such as asbestosis.

  • On rare occasions a lung biopsy has to be performed to determine the cause of an interstitial, scarring lung disease such as coal worker’s pneumoconiosis.


For more than 100 years, National Jewish Health has been committed to finding new treatments and cures for diseases. Search our clinical trials.