The Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) Radiology Department is continually working to care for the mining population of Eastern Kentucky. It is digitally accredited by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to perform black lung screenings.

“We have two dedicated black lung exam rooms here on the main campus at PMC,” said Joni Fields, Assistant Vice President of Imaging & Interventional Radiology. “Our machines were subject to specific testing and are accredited to perform the screening.”

The Coal Workers Health Surveillance Program mandates that employers provide free screenings for coal miners. Anyone who is or has been a coal worker, or is suspected to have pneumoconiosis (also known as black lung), is eligible for this service. Black lung is a serious, but preventable occupational lung disease caused by breathing coal mine dust.

“Any current or former coal miner can walk-in any-time, 24/7 and get a chest X-ray to screen them for black lung,” explained Donetta Chaney, Radiology Manager. “They are entitled to a free chest X-ray annually, to monitor their health and screen for black lung.”

Not just anyone can read an image and make a recommendation on black lung. That can only be done by a B-reader. A physician certified by NIOSH as demonstrating proficiency in classifying radiographs for pneumoconiosis is called a B-reader.

“There are only 11 B-readers in Kentucky and PMC has one,” said Fields. “Dr. Kendall is our B-reader here at PMC and he has to test every four years.”

If a patient’s black lung case is in litigation, their tests are ordered by the attorney who is handling their case.

“Specially certified physicians visit the hospital and perform a full work-up, including a breathing test, blood pressure and bloodwork,” said Fields. “This is in addition to the chest X-ray they would receive as a walk-in.”

“We can see up to 8-10 patients a day on the weeks they are scheduled,” added Chaney. The turnaround time on results is less than 16 hours for final report on results.