The diagnosis of interstitial lung disease (ILD) requires meticulous evaluation for an underlying connective tissue disease (CTD), with major implications for prognosis and management. CTD associated ILD (CTD-ILD) occurs most commonly in the context of an established CTD, but can be the first and/or only manifestation of an occult CTD or occur in patients who have features suggestive of an autoimmune process, but not meeting diagnostic criteria for a defined CTD-recently defined as "interstitial pneumonia with autoimmune features" (IPAF). The detection of specific autoantibodies serves a critical role in the diagnosis of CTD-ILD, but there remains a lack of data to guide clinical practice including which autoantibodies should be tested on initial assessment and when or in whom serial testing should be performed. The implications of detecting autoantibodies in patients with IPAF on disease behaviour and management remain unknown. The evaluation of CTD-ILD is challenging due to the heterogeneity of presentations and types of CTD and ILD that may be encountered, and thus it is imperative that immunologic tests are interpreted in conjunction with a detailed rheumatologic history and examination and multidisciplinary collaboration between respiratory physicians, rheumatologists, immunologists, radiologists and pathologists.
Keywords: autoantibodies; connective tissue disease; diagnosis; interstitial lung disease; interstitial pneumonia with autoimmune features.