Interstitial lung diseases (ILDs), a broad heterogeneous group of parenchymal lung disorders, can be classified into those with known and unknown causes. The definitions and diagnostic criteria for several major forms of ILDs have been revised in recent years. Although well over 100 distinct entities of ILDs are recognized, a limited number of disorders, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis, and connective tissue disease-related ILDs, account for most ILDs encountered clinically. In evaluating patients with suspected ILD, the clinician should confirm the presence of the disease and then try to determine its underlying cause or recognized clinicopathologic syndrome. Clues from the medical history along with the clinical context and radiologic findings provide the initial basis for prioritizing diagnostic possibilities for a patient with ILD. High-resolution computed tomography of the chest has become an invaluable tool in the diagnostic process. A confident diagnosis can sometimes be made on the basis of high-resolution computed tomography and clinical context. Serologic testing can be helpful in selected cases. Histopathologic findings procured through bronchoscopic or surgical lung biopsy are often needed in deriving a specific diagnosis. An accurate prognosis and optimal treatment strategy for patients with ILDs depend on an accurate diagnosis, one guided by recent advances in our understanding of the causes and pathogenetic mechanisms of ILDs.
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