The Science Journal of the American Association for Respiratory Care

2000 OPEN FORUM Abstracts

Diagnosis and Treatment of Restrictive Lung Disease

Brian W. Carlin, MD Integrated Pulmonary Physician, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

When referring to a patient with "lung" disease, one is often referring to a patient with obstructive lung disease (often emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or asthma). Patients with a variety of restrictive lung diseases represent a small but still significant subset of all patients with lung disease. Many of these patients with restrictive lung disease are often not correctly diagnosed as such.
The restrictive lung disorders compromise a variety of diseases including: pleural abnormalities, alveolar filling processes, interstitial lung processes, neuromuscular disorders, and thoracic cage abnormalities. The history and physical examination are key elements in the differentiation and accurate diagnosis of such disorders. Pulmonary function tests are often helpful in the initial determination of a restrictive lung process being present however, other testing is necessary to accurately define the actual process responsible for the restrictive process.
This discussion will focus on the general topic of restrictive lung disease with emphasis on aids to making the correct diagnosis. Further discussion will then detail the important components of the more common types of restrictive processes (namely interstitial pulmonary fibrosis and neuromuscular disorders) which one might encounter in a pulmonary rehabilitation program.

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