The theoretical and practical bases for morphological evaluation of the respiratory system useful for inhalation toxicology are reviewed. For most studies we recommend a comprehensive gross examination followed by in vitro tracheal infusion of a fixative containing both glutaraldehyde and formaldehyde in cacodylate buffer. Lungs fixed in this manner are suitable for LM, SEM, and TEM and lung volumes can be determined. The airway orientation of many lesions and the potential for gradients of damage are considered in the lung sampling plan. While LM of paraffin sections continues to be the basic method for evaluation, the SEM and TEM, especially when ancillary methods are used, provide valuable additional information. The use of backscattered electrons and energy-dispersive X-ray analysis in the SEM provides information concerning the localization and elemental analyses of particles. Cytochemical procedures characterize biological activities of specific cell types and are becoming more widely used. Morphometry permits correlation of quantified structure with physiological and biochemical data.
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