Complications of fibrotic interstitial lung disease for the general radiologist

Clin Radiol. 2024 May;79(5):323-329. doi: 10.1016/j.crad.2024.01.015. Epub 2024 Jan 29.


Interstitial lung diseases (ILDs) are a heterogeneous group of conditions characterised by non-infective inflammation and scarring of the lung parenchyma. They are not infrequently encountered by the general radiologist in both acute and outpatient reporting settings who may even be the first to make the diagnosis. In the acute setting, patients with ILD can present with respiratory deterioration due to a number of causes and in addition to the common causes of dyspnoea, an acute exacerbation of ILD needs to be considered. An exacerbation can be initiated by common triggers such as infection, pulmonary embolism (PE), and heart failure, and it can also be initiated by an insult to the lung or occur due to an unknown cause. Particular care needs to be taken when interpreting computed tomography (CT) examinations in these patients as the findings of an acute exacerbation are non-specific and patient and technical factors can cause spurious appearances including dependent changes, breathing artefact and contrast medium opacification. In the non-acute setting, patients with ILD are at increased risk of lung cancer and pulmonary hypertension (PH), with lung cancer being a particularly important consideration as treatments carry the risk of triggering an acute exacerbation or deterioration in lung function. Overall, this review aims to provide an overview for the general radiologist of additional factors to consider when interpreting scans in patients with ILD and how the presence of ILD impacts the differential diagnoses and complications that can occur in these patients in both acute and non-acute settings.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression
  • Dyspnea
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial* / complications
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial* / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung Neoplasms*
  • Prognosis