What is a B Reader X-Ray and Why is it So Important?

A B Reader describes a certified doctor by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). They must exhibit proficiency in classifying x-rays of pneumoconiosis. In 2013, pneumoconiosis resulted in 260,000 deaths globally, up from 251,000 deaths in 1990.

Pneumoconiosis is any disease of the lungs caused by inhaling dust, causing it to be deposited deep in the lungs causing damage. It is most often associated with occupational lung disease. Included in this classification are silicosis, asbestosis and coal miner’s pneumoconiosis (aka black lung disease). This can develop when noxious airborne particles are inhaled while working. The particles get trapped in the lungs where they cause inflammation or fibrosis (scarring).

Common symptoms are shortness of breath and persistent cough. The risk is higher when workers have been exposed for prolonged periods of time to asbestos, silica and coal dust.

There are currently only about 300 physicians qualified as B readers in the entire world. They are certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for both federal and state worker’s compensation claims. B readers don’t specifically have to be radiologists or pulmonologists however, they can be both.

A B read x-ray looks for changes on the chest x-ray that may indicate exposure and disease caused by particles such as silica and asbestos. The stringent protocols in place for B read x-rays provides rules for systematically examining the x-ray in a step-by-step method and recording certain changes or abnormalities on the chest x-ray that can be caused by dust inhalation and fibers.

Currently B Readers are involved with epidemiological evaluation, worker monitoring and surveillance involving many types of pneumoconioses not just the Coal Workers’ programs. The B Reader program’s goal is to ensure competency in radiographic reading by evaluating the ability of readers to classify a test set of x-rays, thereby creating and maintaining a pool of qualified readers who have the ability and skills to provide precise and accurate ILO classifications.

Prevention is the best way to prevent occupational lung disease and damage. Proper protocols and proper fit for respirators are key. As are preventative measures for controlling occupational dust such as water spray systems and proper ventilation in confined spaces. Once the damage is done, it cannot be reversed. Monitoring of the disease and preventing further damage is the extent of the help physicians can offer.

I & O Medical centers have access to a B Reader. If you need help, please reach out to one of our physicians. I & O Medical has got your back!