Ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report
Published: July 30, 2010
Updated: July 30, 2010
Duke offers a variety of advanced treatments for pulmonary fibrosis and other interstitial lung diseases (ILD). Our doctors work with each patient to develop a comprehensive treatment plan to alleviate the causes of the disease and the pain caused by these diseases.
Duke offers the following treatment options for pulmonary fibrosis and other ILDs: environmental control, oxygen, pulmonary rehabilitation, drug treatments, and lung transplantation.
An accurate diagnosis is critical to the management of environmental-related pulmonary fibrosis and ILD. Once your doctor determines the exact environmental cause of your disease, he will work to eliminate this exposure.
Some environmental lung diseases such as acute hypersensitivity pneumonitis will improve after removal of the offending agent. Other diseases, such as chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis or asbestosis, will continue to progress after eliminating the exposure.
Once pulmonary fibrosis or another ILD has damaged the lungs enough to make oxygen levels fall, supplemental oxygen therapy is used to protect the patient’s heart and other organs from damage. Our doctors and nurses carefully monitor each patient’s breathing capacity, especially during sleep and exercise when oxygen levels in the blood typically begin to fall.
Patients with lung disease need to avoid a sedentary lifestyle, which may lead to muscle weakness and weight gain -- a process known as “deconditioning.” Deconditioining may worsen the symptoms of breathlessness and further impair patient activity. At Duke, our pulmonary program partners with the Duke Center for Living to offer excellent pulmonary rehabilitation programs that help patients learn to breathe freely.
Drug treatment is often used to control the inflammation and pain associated with pulmonary fibrosis and ILD. The effects of the drugs used to treat lung disease vary for each patient, but your doctor will closely monitor your reaction to each drug and work to find the most effective solution for your problems.
Prednisone is a drug that, when given in high doses, has anti-inflammatory effects; it can relieve inflammation and pain in the lungs. Prednisone is somewhat tricky to prescribe and predict and is associated with significant side effects, so your doctor will carefully examine the reasons for initiating prednisone treatment and make sure that you are a suitable candidate for this drug.
Other anti-inflammatory drugs used alongside prednisone are azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, and mycophenalate. These drugs also have significant side effects, so your doctor will monitor your reaction to the drug closely.
Once the lungs become scarred with fibrosis, there are currently no treatments to remove the scars from the lungs. Clinical trials are underway to identify drugs that have anti-fibrotic activity. To date, several trials have been conducted, but no drugs are currently FDA-approved to treat pulmonary fibrosis.
Duke is at the forefront of pulmonary research, and, because of this, patients have access to investigational drugs that offer hope for patients suffering from pulmonary fibrosis.
For patients with advanced pulmonary fibrosis or ILD, lung transplantation is the only treatment to prolong survival. For pulmonary fibrosis patients, we offer single and double lung transplants.
Duke boasts one of the busiest and most successful lung transplantation programs in the country. At Duke, there is no upper age limit for lung transplants, which is particularly important for pulmonary fibrosis patients.