By Dr. Lachie Dick MD
Editor’s note: The recent mainstream media publicity about so-called “Bagpipe Lung” resulted in much misinformation and amateur analysis, even some from within non-professionals in our own piping community. pipes|drums decided to do things right, and worked with an actual medical doctor who is also a top-quality piper. Dr. Lachie Dick of Edinburgh took a look at the matter and provided the following contribution for our subscribers.
In August 2016, the concept of “Bagpipe Lung” was re-introduced to the piping community.(1) Several national newspapers and broadcasters, both in the UK and abroad, covered the publication of a medical article describing the case of a patient who developed Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis.(2-5) Of interest to us, daily playing of his bagpipes was identified as the most likely cause for this.
Some of this coverage labelled the bagpipes as a potential harm to health(6-8) if not cleaned properly and regularly. Given that the patient died from his underlying condition, it further added to the idea that there were potential damaging effects from playing bagpipes. How much should we read into these reports? Should we be cleaning out and disinfecting our pipes after every performance? And what are these reports based on?