Pulmonary fibrosis describes permanent scarring of the lung tissue that is detected by chest xrays and/or chest CT scans. Localized pulmonary fibrosis that is detected in a limited portion of the lung, commonly occurs after severe infections or other lung injuries. If the involved area is small, localized pulmonary fibrosis will generally not cause breathing problems. Diffuse pulmonary fibrosis is usually more significant, depending on the extent of the scarring and the underlying cause.
Diffuse pulmonary fibrosis has multiple causes including:
- Severe diffuse lung infections, pneumonia and others
- Associated with rheumatologic syndromes, such as rheumatoid arthritis
- Occupational dust exposures, such as asbestos or silicates
- Sarcoidosis, an inflammatory illness commonly affecting the lung tissues
- Interstitial lung diseases, such as Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
- Unusual drug reactions
- Following lung radiation, especially if done in combination with chemotherapy
- Inflammatory conditions, such as Cryptogenic Organizing Pneumonitis
The presence of significant diffuse pulmonary fibrosis often causes Shortness of Breath and frequently a dry cough. Diffuse pulmonary fibrosis causes characteristic patterns of scarring seen on chest xray or chest CT scans, and abnormalities on Lung Function Tests including limitations in lung expansion and decreased efficiency of oxygen transfer into the lungs. The specific cause of diffuse pulmonary fibrosis may require specialized chest imaging studies, or surgical lung biopsies.
At SEC Lung, Dr. Garver will evaluate your medical and occupational history, perform a complete physical exam and lung function testing, along with a review of all your chest imaging studies. Blood tests looking for systemic illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis may be ordered. In some cases, Dr. Garver will recommend an outpatient non-surgical biopsy of the lung tissue that he performs with a bronchoscope while you are deeply sedated.
Please see Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation for more information.