Children's Interstitial Lung Disease (ChILD) Treatment & Management

Updated: Feb 06, 2018
  • Author: James S Hagood, MD; Chief Editor: Girish D Sharma, MD, FCCP, FAAP  more...
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Medical Care

The multiple possible diagnostic entities and lack of randomized clinical trials make offering specific recommendations regarding treatment of children’s interstitial lung disease (ChILD) impossible. If the process is secondary to an underlying condition, patients should be treated for the underlying disease.

The same principles that apply to all children with chronic pulmonary diseases apply to those with interstitial lung disease (ILD). These include meticulous attention to growth and nutrition, immunizations (including influenza and pneumococcal prophylaxis), and treatment of secondary infections.

  • Treatment with bronchodilators, inhaled steroids, or both may be appropriate if any component of airway reactivity is demonstrated on PFT. However, this therapy has not been proven to modify the clinical course of most types of ILD.

  • Oxygen therapy, either continuously or during sleep, may be necessary to provide symptomatic relief and to decrease the risk or halt the progression of pulmonary hypertension and cor pulmonale related to alveolar hypoxia.

  • Active and passive smoking should be avoided. Smoking cessation should be actively pursued for caregivers who smoke.

  • Many medications have been used to treat different forms of ILD. No therapeutic regimen has been subjected to the rigors of a randomized control trial in the pediatric population. Numerous broad treatment strategies have been attempted, including anti-inflammatory medications (eg, steroids, cytotoxic agents, immunosuppressive therapies), collagen synthesis inhibitors, antifibrotic agents, hydroxychloroquine, intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), antioxidants, and cytokine inhibitors.

  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is the most treatable condition among chILDs. Fan et al (2004) reported 86 cases of pediatric hypersensitivity pneumonitis that had an excellent response to steroids. [40] Other steroid-responsive conditions include NSIP, LIP, COP, eosinophilic pneumonia syndromes, sarcoidosis, pulmonary hemosiderosis, and ILD associated with connective tissue disease. [7]

  • Treatment of specific conditions resulting in ILD includes antiviral agents against CMV and EBV, antiretroviral therapy in addition to prednisolone for AIDS-associated LIP, surgical approach for lymphangiomatosis, therapeutic BAL for PAP, and PPI and Nissen fundoplication for GER-associated chronic aspiration. Reports indicate that infliximab (an inhibitor of tumor necrosis factor [TNF]-alpha) may be beneficial for ILD associated with rheumatoid arthritis. [50] Several studies have demonstrated successful use of subcutaneous treatments with GM-CSF in adults with PAP. [7]

  • In patients with associated PAH, sildenafil and/or anticoagulant therapy should be considered.

  • In patients with congenital PAP due to GM-CSF receptor mutation or acquired receptor dysfunction secondary to autoantibody formation, subcutaneous or inhaled GM-CSF treatment has been reported to be beneficial. [51] , [52]


Surgical Care

See the list below:

  • Surgical consultation is usually sought for diagnostic biopsy (see Procedures).

  • Patients with end-stage idiopathic forms of ILD, severe lung disease associated with SFTPB or ABCA3 mutations, as well as some pulmonary veno-occlusive diseases, may be candidates for lung or heart/lung transplantation. These patients are considered on an individual basis at the few centers specializing in pediatric lung transplantation.

  • In children, the establishment of lung transplantation has been slower than in adults. Only 5% of all patients receiving transplants for this reason have been younger than 18 years. For some diseases, such as SP-B and ABCA3 deficiencies and alveolar capillary dysplasia, lung transplantation remains the only effective treatment.

  • Huddleston et al (2002) reported a 77% overall survival rate for the first year after transplantation in children.45 The 3- and 5-year survival declined to 63% and 54%, respectively. The authors observed no statistical relationship between pretransplantation diagnoses and long-term survival. The same authors reported 19 infants younger than 6 months who underwent lung transplantation: Seven had SP-B deficiency, 4 had PAP of other etiology, 3 had congenital interstitial pneumonitis, 2 had alveolar-capillary dysplasia, and 10 had pulmonary vascular disease.



See the list below:

  • Pediatric pulmonologist: All children with ILD should be treated in consultation with a pediatric pulmonologist.

  • Pediatric ILD specialist: In addition, referral to or telephone consultation with a center with clinicians specializing in childhood ILD is advised.

  • Pediatric cardiologist: As a result of the existence of cardiovascular diseases masquerading as ILD, all patients should see a pediatric cardiologist.

  • Pediatric rheumatologist: A pediatric rheumatologist should be involved in the management of ILD associated with connective tissue disease.

  • Pediatric radiologist: Consult a pediatric radiologist regarding interpretation of imaging studies.

  • In addition, consider consultation with the following specialists:

    • Infectious disease specialist

    • Immunologist

    • Rheumatologist

    • Transplantation specialist

  • Pathologist: Consultation with a pathologist is recommended before tissue is obtained to ensure that adequate specimens are collected and that they are correctly processed. Consider consultation with a pathologist knowledgeable about ChILD.



No specific diet is necessary. However, as with patients with any chronic disease, patients with ChILD should receive sufficient kilojoules to maintain adequate growth. Decreased lung compliance increases the work of breathing and energy expenditure. Energy supplementation should be undertaken with consideration to the added difficulty in handling high carbohydrate loads with chronic lung disease. Consult a nutritionist experienced in the management of chronic pulmonary conditions in children. Young infants with feeding difficulties resulting from dyspnea may require a transpyloric or gastrostomic feeding tube.



Activity may be limited by the patient's degree of dyspnea. Oxygen saturation during exercise should be measured. A prescribed, monitored, exercise program may be beneficial to prevent deconditioning in older children. Conditions that may exacerbate pulmonary symptoms (high levels of ozone or other environmental pollutants) should be avoided. Patients with hypersensitivity pneumonitis should be removed from exposure to the precipitating substances (eg, birds, organic dusts). Air travel or travel to high altitudes must be carefully planned in patients with arterial desaturation.