Treatments for Interstitial lung disease in Children

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Contact the Interstitial Lung Disease Program

  • 617-355-1900
  • International: +1-617-355-5209

There is no single treatment for interstitial lung disease (ILD). The treatment depends on the particular condition.

Every patient we see at Boston Children's Hospital receives treatment based on his or her specific diagnosis and symptoms. For the treatment of children with ILD, we have a multi-specialty group that meets on a frequent basis to review evaluation and treatment plans. 

Boston Children's is part of the Children's Interstitial Lung Disease Research Network and is actively involved in research projects aimed at developing the best treatments for these specific disorders.

Our main basic goals of therapy include the following:

1)  Prevent low oxygen levels

Low oxygen levels are detrimental to growth and development and can strain the heart, so we will play close attention to diagnosing and treating low oxygen levels. Oxygen is provided as needed to maintain appropriate blood oxygen levels. Occasionally other devices (non-invasive ventilation/pressure machines or tracheostomy tubes/ventilators are needed to maintain gas exchange.      

2)  Help to reduce excess work of breathing

It is important to reduce the work required to breathe so that your child can use more of the calories that she needs to grow. We often use anti-inflammatory therapies (such as steroids or immune modulation medications) to treat lung inflammation, as inflammation can make it harder to breathe. We also do things like chest PT to help remove built up mucous in the airways so that doesn't cause a lack of oxygen.         

3)  Provide nutritional support as needed to promote growth

Children with ILD may work harder to breathe and it may be difficult to take in enough calories to supply the energy to breathe and grow. We have a nutritionist on our team who provides expert advice on how to add supplemental calories and needed nutrients. Occasionally our ILD patients require therapy with additional calories provided through feedings tubes; if we think your child might need this, we will discuss this in depth with you before moving forward. 

3)  Prevent further damage to the lungs from the underlying condition and associated conditions

Infections can cause a flare-up in respiratory symptoms, so we recommend that you keep your child's vaccinations up to date. We'll also help you keep your child's airways clear using clearance therapy mucous doesn't build up and increase the risk of infections. If you child does get an infection (or an infection is suspected), we will treat her aggressively if indicated. 

Some specific ILDs are associated with problems in other organ systems. Through our multi-disciplinary group we work to coordinate and consolidate care of associated conditions. 

Sometimes lung transplantation becomes a treatment option for children with ILD. If this is the case with your child, the Lung Transplant Program team here at Boston Children's Hospital provides expert review and opinion, as well as other services and support.   

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- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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