Smoking-related interstitial fibrosis (SRIF), pathogenesis and treatment of usual interstitial pneumonia (UIP), and transbronchial biopsy in UIP

Mod Pathol. 2012 Jan;25 Suppl 1:S68-78. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2011.154.


This review focuses on three selected topics of current interest that are related to chronic fibrosing lung disorders and are important for pathologists. First, the clinical and pathologic features of smoking-related interstitial fibrosis (SRIF) are highlighted. SRIF is a common finding in smokers that has striking histologic changes but only mild associated clinical manifestations. It is characterized by marked alveolar septal fibrosis composed of a distinct form of hyalinized collagen deposition. The process is present mainly in subpleural and centrilobular parenchyma and is associated with emphysema and respiratory bronchiolitis. Second, important aspects of the pathogenesis and treatment of usual interstitial pneumonia (UIP) are reviewed. The current theory proposes that UIP is caused by tiny foci of acute lung injury (manifest pathologically by fibroblast foci) that occur and recur in the interstitium over many years. Inflammation may be present as a secondary phenomenon, but is not the primary cause, and therefore anti-inflammatory agents have little effect. The recurrent injury leads to permanent fibrosis, through a process that is considered to represent a form of abnormal wound healing. Multiple therapies have been attempted that are aimed largely at interrupting the fibrosing process, but none have been successful. The cause of the injury is unknown, but a role for aspiration due to gastroesophageal reflux is a popular current theory, and there is some evidence that anti-reflux therapy may be beneficial. Genetic predisposition has been implicated in the etiology of familial cases, and there is evidence that telomere shortening may be important in sporadic cases. Third, the use of transbronchial biopsy (TBB) in diagnosing UIP is reviewed. TBB can provide a surprising amount of information and is especially useful in certain situations, such as elderly or very sick patients in whom surgical lung biopsy carries increased morbidity and mortality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Humans
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / therapy
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / pathology
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / therapy
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / etiology
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology*
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / therapy
  • Smoking / adverse effects*