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Interstitial Lung Disease

Scarring can cause thick and inflexible tissue to develop almost anywhere in the body. When scarring occurs in the lungs, it can lead to a serious condition called interstitial lung disease, also known as pulmonary fibrosis. Pulmonary fibrosis may arise for a variety of reasons, from exposure to environmental factors to autoimmune diseases. Or, most frequently, it can occur for simply no reason at all, otherwise known as idiopathic. This progressive condition results in labored breathing, acute respiratory distress and possible lung failure.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Interstitial Lung Disease

The major signs of interstitial lung disease include:

  • dry cough
  • difficulty breathing at rest or with exertion

As these symptoms mimic those of many other lung conditions, it is important to obtain an accurate diagnosis from a pulmonologist. While pulmonary fibrosis typically causes irreversible lung damage, it can be slowed with appropriate medical therapy. Early detection and treatment are essential to preventing further scarring and stiffening of the lung tissue and, perhaps, the need for a lung transplant. In severe cases, your pulmonologist will refer you to an appropriate lung transplant center. While lung transplantation services are not available at NorthShore, our academic partner, the University of Chicago, offers a comprehensive organ transplant program.

Surgical Biopsy for Interstitial Lung Disease

The diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis is often made by clinical history, physical exam and very high resolution CT scanning alone. In some cases, your pulmonologist may require a small sample of lung tissue in order to confirm the diagnosis or before starting treatments. At NorthShore, our experienced thoracic surgeons perform minimally invasive diagnostic procedures for this condition. We routinely use video assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), involving pencil-thin surgical instruments and a tiny camera, to take a biopsy of the lung for testing.

For More Information

To schedule an appointment with one of our thoracic surgeons, please call 847.570.2868.