Connective Tissue Disease-Associated ILD

The diagnosis of CT-ILD requires input from pulmonologists, radiologists, and in some cases, pathologists experienced in interstitial lung disease.

In making a diagnosis, your doctor will start by conducting a thorough medical history and physical examination. This will include discussing your health history, reviewing medications and potential occupational and environmental exposures, listening to your chest with a stethoscope to check for a crackling sound, and carefully examining your skin and joints.

In addition, your doctor may conduct the following tests:

  • Pulmonary Function Testing — This test involves a series of breathing maneuvers that measure the lungs' airflows, the volume of air in your lungs, and the ability of your lungs to extract oxygen from the air. This allows your doctor to objectively assess your lung function.
  • High Resolution Computed Tomography (HRCT) — This is a special type of CT scan that provides high-resolution images of your lungs. Images are taken in several different positions: with you lying on your back, lying on your chest, and when breathing air out of your chest. These various images are extremely valuable in determining whether or not you have CT-ILD.

    Having an HRCT will feel no different than having a regular CT scan. The test is performed on an open-air table and takes only a few minutes.
  • Blood Tests — Blood tests for the presence of various antibodies are used to evaluate patients for a connective tissue disease. Some patients with connective tissue diseases develop lung problems before the more typical symptoms arise; in these cases, blood test results may be the only evidence of CT-ILD.

For some patients, interstitial lung disease is the first manifestation of a connective tissue disease. If this is the case, we may refer you to a rheumatologist for further evaluation.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.