Diagnosis and management of interstitial lung disease.
The complex tasks of making a confident diagnosis of a specific form of interstitial lung disease (ILD) and formulating a patient-centered, personalized management plan in an attempt to achieve remission or stabilization of the disease process can pose formidable challenges to clinicians. When patients are evaluated for suspected ILD, an accurate diagnosis of the specific form of ILD that a patient has developed must be made to provide the patient with useful prognostic information and to formulate an appropriate management plan that can relieve symptoms and restore or significantly improve quality of life. A well-performed patient history and physical examination provides invaluable information that can be combined with appropriate laboratory testing, imaging, and, if needed, tissue biopsy to reach a confident ILD diagnosis, and high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) of the thorax is usually a key component of the diagnostic evaluation. If treatment is indicated, many forms of ILD can respond significantly to immunosuppressive anti-inflammatory therapies. However, ILD accompanied by extensive fibrosis may be difficult to treat, and the identification of an effective pharmacologic therapy for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) has remained elusive despite the completion of many phase 3 clinical trials over the past decade. Nonetheless, patients with IPF or advanced forms of non-IPF ILD can benefit significantly from detection and treatment of various co-morbid conditions that are often found in patients (especially the elderly patient), and supportive care (oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation) can have a beneficial impact on quality of life and symptom palliation. Finally, lung transplantation is an option for patients with progressive, advanced disease that does not respond to other therapies, but only a relatively small subset of patients with end-stage ILD are able to meet wait listing requirements and eventually undergo successful lung transplantation.
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