Skip to Main Content
Diagnosis Pulmonology

Chronic Beryllium Disease

In making a diagnosis of chronic beryllium disease, your doctor will start by taking a detailed medical and occupational history and conducting a thorough medical examination. This will help determine if you have been exposed to any toxic substances that may have caused CBD or other occupational lung diseases. CBD, without a specific occupational history and specialized testing, is identical to the disease sarcoidosis and therefore is often misdiagnosed as that condition.

Another important step in making a diagnosis of CBD is a simple blood test called beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT). This test determines if your immune system is reacting to berylium, which may indicate CBD. If you test positive for this test, additional tests may be conducted to make a definitive diagnosis:

  • Chest X-ray A chest X-ray may be taken to look for any abnormalities in your lungs.
  • Pulmonary Function Testing (PFT) This test involves a series of breathing maneuvers that measure the airflow and volume of air in your lungs, which allows your doctor to objectively assess the function of your lungs.
  • High Resolution Computed Tomography (HRCT) This is a special type of CT scan that provides your doctor with high-resolution images of your lungs. These images are extremely valuable in determining which type of occupational lung disease you have. Having a HRCT is no different than having a regular CT scan; they both are performed on an open-air table and take only a few minutes.
  • Bronchoscopy This test involves passing a flexible fiberoptic scope, about the diameter of a pencil, into the lungs to obtain fluid and sometimes tissue samples to aid in diagnosis. In evaluating CBD, bronchoscopy usually includes testing a patient's sputum because this fluid can undergo the same beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT) test that is performed on blood.
  • Lung Biopsy If a patient's chest X-ray or high resolution computed tomography (HRCT) detects any growths or abnormalities, a lung biopsy may be conducted to determine whether lung cancer is present. A lung biopsy is a surgical procedure in which a specimen of lung tissue is sampled and examined under the microscope.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.