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How Is Childhood Interstitial Lung Disease Treated?

Childhood interstitial lung disease (chILD) is rare, and little research has been done on how to treat it. At this time, chILD has no cure. However, some children who have certain diseases, such as neuroendocrine cell hyperplasia of infancy, may slowly improve over time.

Current treatment approaches include supportive therapy, medicines, and, in the most serious cases, lung transplants.

Supportive Therapy

Supportive therapy refers to treatments that help relieve symptoms or improve quality of life. Supportive approaches used to relieve common chILD symptoms include:

  • Oxygen therapy. If your child's blood oxygen level is low, he or she may need oxygen therapy. This treatment can improve breathing, support growth, and reduce strain on the heart.
  • Bronchodilators. These medications relax the muscles around your child’s airways, which helps open the airways and makes breathing easier.
  • Breathing devices. Children who have severe disease may need ventilators or other devices to help them breathe easier.
  • Extra nutrition. This treatment can help improve your child's growth and help him or her gain weight. Close monitoring of growth is especially important.
  • Techniques and devices to help relieve lung congestion. These may include chest physical therapy (CPT) or wearing a vest that helps move mucus (a sticky substance) to the upper airways so it can be coughed up. CPT may involve pounding the chest and back over and over with your hands or a device to loosen mucus in the lungs so that your child can cough it up.
  • Supervised pulmonary rehabilitation (PR). PR is a broad program that helps improve the well-being of people who have chronic (ongoing) breathing problems.

Medicines

Corticosteroids are a common treatment for many children who have chILD. These medicines help reduce lung inflammation.

Other medicines can help treat specific types or causes of chILD. For example, antimicrobial medicines can treat a lung infection. Acid-blocking medicines can prevent acid reflux, which can lead to aspiration.

Lung Transplant

A lung transplant may be an option for children who have severe chILD if other treatments haven't worked.

Currently, lung transplants are the only effective treatment for some types of chILD that have a high risk of death, such as alveolar capillary dysplasia and certain surfactant dysfunction mutations.

Early diagnosis of these diseases gives children the chance to receive lung transplants. So far, chILD doesn't appear to come back in patients' transplanted lungs.

For more information about this treatment, go to the Health Topics Lung Transplant article.

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January 1, 2011