Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine

Interstitial Lung Disease Program

The Massachusetts General Hospital Interstitial Lung Disease Program provides the latest diagnostic and therapeutic options for patients with the roughly 160 disorders categorized as interstitial lung diseases, also known as pulmonary fibrosis.

  • Phone: 617-726-1721

A Multidisciplinary Care Team

At the Interstitial Lung Disease Program, our multidisciplinary team includes lung specialists, chest radiologists and pathologists, thoracic surgeons and research scientists. We work together to:

  • Deliver compassionate, comprehensive care for interstitial lung diseases, also known as pulmonary fibrosis
  • IEducate patients and their families about these diseases
  • Improve our understanding of what causes these diseases and their progression
  • Help translate this understanding into new treatments for patients

Your First Visit

Our program is headquartered in the Pulmonary Associates Clinic, located on the second floor of the Cox Building. For your first visit, please bring any past evaluations or test results involving your lungs. If you have any questions about this or any other aspect of your care, please call our clinic coordinator at 617-726-1721.

At your first visit, you will meet with the lung specialist who will direct your care. You can expect:

  • An in-depth discussion about how your illness has affected you
  • A complete physical examination
  • A thorough review of prior diagnostic studies (if applicable)
  • Further diagnostic studies (if needed)

After your visit, our program's doctors will meet as a group to discuss your case, review your test results and compile recommendations. Your lung specialist may then need to schedule additional meetings and/or testing to diagnose your specific disorder and formulate a treatment plan.

State-of-the-Art Testing

Diagnosing the precise nature of your interstitial lung disease allows us to prescribe the most effective treatment plan. It also enables us to set realistic expectations about your prognosis, including quality of life, so you can put your condition into perspective.

Our program offers sophisticated tests that we use to diagnose and manage interstitial lung diseases, including:

  • Complete pulmonary function test (i.e. breathing test)
  • Exercise desaturation study: Measures how well and how fast you can walk with and without oxygen
  • Six-minute walk test: A formal evaluation of how far you can walk and the oxygen saturations you achieve while walking
  • Blood tests
  • High-resolution computed tomography: A special type of CT scan that helps your lung specialist to determine what form of interstitial lung disease you have
  • Echocardiogram: Looks at the overall health of the heart and screens for pulmonary hypertension
  • Bronchoscopy: Involves the passage of a tiny, flexible fiber optic scope into the lungs to obtain fluid and sometimes tissue to aid in diagnosis
  • Surgical lung biopsy: used in some cases to definitively diagnose the cause of lung disease; performed by a thoracic surgeon and requires staying at Mass General for a few days

An Individualized Treatment Plan

In addition to test results, we look at factors such as age, overall health, medical history, tolerance for certain therapeutic options and personal preferences to determine your individualized treatment plan. We will always keep you and your referring doctor informed of our findings and treatment recommendations.

Common treatment options include:

  • Corticosteroids, immunosuppressive agents and other oral medications
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation
  • Influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia vaccines
  • Oxygen supplementation from portable containers

Please note: Corticosteroids—the traditional prescription for many interstitial lung diseases—have not been proven to reverse these disorders. As a result, some patients may benefit from one of these options:

  • Investigational trials: Our program frequently conducts clinical trials to study the benefits of promising new treatments for interstitial lung diseases
  • Lung transplantation: We can identify potential candidates for lung transplantation and make referrals to the Mass General Lung Transplant Program for further evaluation

Specializing in the Full Spectrum of Interstitial Lung Diseases

Interstitial lung diseases comprise a number of chronic lung conditions. All of these disorders involve fibrosis, or scarring, of the interstitium (the tissue between the air sacs of the lungs). This process destroys the tissue's ability to breathe and carry oxygen. As a result, patients often experience shortness of breath and are limited in carrying out daily activities.

The Interstitial Lung Disease Program specializes in diagnosing and treating the full spectrum of interstitial lung diseases, including:

  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  • Less common disorders such as lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) and cryptogenic organizing pneumonia (COP)

A Long-standing Research & Clinical History

Mass General has a long-standing research and clinical interest in interstitial lung diseases. Today, our program includes lung specialists, chest radiologists and pathologists, thoracic surgeons and research scientists whose focus is interstitial lung diseases.

The interdisciplinary nature of our team offers many benefits for patients. We have the multifaceted expertise to diagnose and treat the various forms of interstitial lung diseases. Equally important, we have the ability to address the complications of these disorders (e.g. pulmonary hypertension) that can greatly compromise quality of life. And patients have the convenience of receiving all their care in one hospital.

Our program is led by co-directors Leo Ginns, MD and Andrew Tager, MD. A member of the Pulmonary and Critical Care Unit since 1977, Dr. Ginns has conducted basic research in immunology of lung disease and clinical research in lung transplantation and advanced lung disease. He served as medical director of the Mass General Lung Transplant Program from 1990 until 2010, when he became director of our Center for Advanced Lung Disease.

Dr. Tager joined the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in 1999 after completing a research fellowship investigating several lung diseases, including pulmonary fibrosis, asthma and cystic fibrosis. He since has focused on pulmonary fibrosis and in recent years has received international recognition for his work in identifying new pathways by which this disease may develop. His research today continues to be centered on understanding the causes of fibrotic lung diseases, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Research Opportunities for Patients

Physicians and scientists in our program are working toward new advances for interstitial lung diseases for which current treatment options are limited. In addition to delivering exceptional clinical care, we offer patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials of new therapies and scientific investigations into the causes of interstitial lung diseases.

Preparing the Next Generation of Pulmonologists

As part of a world-class academic medical center, the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine is continually preparing the next generation of leaders in academic pulmonary and critical care medicine. Fellows in the Pulmonary (Lung) Fellowship Program receive clinical and research training in interstitial lung diseases and all other major pulmonary conditions.

Interstitial Lung Disease (Pulmonary Fibrosis)

Interstitial lung diseases are named after the tissue between the air sacs of the lungs called the interstitium - the tissue affected by fibrosis (scarring).

Pulmonary Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is a rare disease that results from inflammation.

The following related clinical trials and research studies are currently seeking participants at Massachusetts General Hospital. Search for clinical trials and studies in another area of interest.