Elastin fibers

Examining for the presence of elastin fibers improves the specificity of tracheal aspirates in patients who have pneumonia. This is a simple process in which a drop of 40 per cent potassium hydroxide (KOH) is mixed with purulent tracheal aspirate on a microscope slide and examined for the KOH-resistant elastin fibers using standard light microscopy. Although not very sensitive (52 per cent), it is highly specific for patients with necrotizing pneumonia; false-positive results occur in patients with lung damage from non-infectious causes such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (Shepherd §L§L 1995).

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