Centers of Excellence

The Lung Center

Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD)

Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD), also referred to as pulmonary fibrosis or interstitial pneumonia, comprises a group of conditions characterized by inflammation and scarring around the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. This lung remodeling leads to a decrease in the ability of the lungs to take in oxygen that makes breathing more difficult.

Interstitial lung disease is caused by extrinsic or environmental exposures, intrinsic or systemic diseases, genetic disorders, or a combination of the above. In many cases, the cause is unknown. There are limited medical and surgical treatments for ILD and in many instances there is no cure, but with appropriate management these conditions can be effectively managed to promote a healthy, active lifestyle.

Learn more about ILD.

Physicians and surgeons in the Interstitial Lung Disease Clinic at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Lung Center provide comprehensive, specialized care for patients with ILD. Their expertise and collaboration with other specialists throughout BWH provide patients with a highly informed diagnosis and cohesive treatment plan.

Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) Topics

Risk Factors for ILD

Factors contributing to an increased risk for ILD include:

  • Environmental or occupational exposures
  • Smoking
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Chemotherapy and radiation treatment
  • Family history of ILD
Causes of ILD

The causes of ILD are not well understood—and this sometimes makes diagnosis and treatment difficult. For this reason, it is important for patients to consult with experienced physicians with a specialized understanding of ILD and possible treatment options. Some causes of ILD are:

  • Environmental or occupational exposures
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Certain drugs or medications
  • Genetic susceptibility
Symptoms of ILD

The symptoms of ILD vary greatly from patient to patient. The most common symptoms include:

Diagnosis of ILD

Your physician will take a complete medical history and conduct several tests to diagnose ILD. The tests include:

Treatment for ILD

The lung scarring and damage that ILD causes is irreversible, so it is important to consult with a team of experts and begin timely treatment.

ILD treatment aims to preserve lung function. Your care plan may include a variety of medications, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation and, when indicated, lung transplantation.

Medications
Depending on your specific lung disease, its stage, your age and a variety of other factors, your physician may prescribe therapies to reduce fibrosis, modulate the immune system or treat pulmonary hypertension. 

Oxygen Therapy
If you do not have enough oxygen in your blood, you may need supplemental oxygen. Devices are available that deliver pure oxygen to your lungs. Many devices are small, portable and convenient to use.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation
This program trains you to lead a more active lifestyle with exercise, nutrition and other strategies for living with ILD.

Learn more about pulmonary rehabilitation and BWH’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program services.

Lung Transplant
If other therapies do not improve ILD, your physician may recommend referral and evaluation by a lung transplant program.

Learn more about BWH’s Division of Thoracic Surgery and Lung Transplant Program.

What You Should Expect

At the ILD Clinic, patients receive same-day consultation with a rheumatologist and pulmonologist. A multidisciplinary team then reviews your diagnostic information and creates a cohesive and comprehensive treatment plan. This approach fosters seamless, expert care. Your medical condition will be closely monitored and managed to promote optimal lung functioning and an improved quality of life.

If you require surgery, you will meet with your healthcare team first for pre-operative information and tests. On the day of your surgery, you will receive care from surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in thoracic surgery. After surgery, you will recover in the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced surgical and nursing staff.

Multidisciplinary Care

Patients benefit from the full range of services and expertise offered at BWH and through the ILD Clinic at The Lung Center. In addition to care from the physicians in the ILD Clinic, patients also benefit from the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program. Collaboration between pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, rheumatologists, pulmonologists, pathologists, radiologists and physical therapists provide comprehensive, expert ILD treatment based on current research.

Resources

Visit our health library to learn more about interstitial lung disease.

Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center for Patients and Families to access computers and knowledgeable staff.

Access a complete directory of patient and family services.

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