Stage Four Pulmonary Fibrosis Treatment Options
Pulmonary Fibrosis: An Introduction
Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease where the lungs become scarred; this causes the complex passageways inside the lungs to thicken and harden. The hardening of passageways inside the lungs makes it difficult for oxygen to pass through the walls of the alveoli, which are tiny air sacs, thus preventing oxygen from reaching the bloodstream. The lack of oxygen in the bloodstream leaves sufferers of pulmonary fibrosis short of breath even after periods of prolonged rest. Pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive disease in which sufferers get worse over time, sometimes slowly and other times rapidly. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis means that the disease has no known cause. Pulmonary fibrosis is included in a family of conditions referred to as interstitial lung disease.
The Connection to Interstitial Lung Disease
Interstitial lung disease is an umbrella term used to identify a group of roughly 100 different types of pulmonary disorders that affect the absorption of oxygen in the lungs. All of these disorders alter the interstitium, which is the tissue and space surrounding the alveoli—the cluster-like air sacs—of the lungs. Typically the interstitium is not visible, but when an individual has interstitial lung disease, the interstitium becomes visible as a result of progressive scarring. This progressive scarring is characteristic of the whole family of disorders encompassed by interstitial lung disease such as pulmonary fibrosis. Previously the effects of interstitial lung disease were completely irreversible; now there are a variety of treatments available for individuals suffering from stage four interstitial lung disease.
Stage Four Pulmonary Fibrosis Treatments
Stage four pulmonary fibrosis is not curable, but that does not mean that the disease is untreatable. In fact, there are many possible treatments for pulmonary fibrosis as there are a variety of possible causes and prognoses. As an incurable disease, the treatment is not meant to make the disease disappear, but rather can be used to improve a patient’s quality of life, to improve symptoms or to delay the progression of the disease. Initially, many physicians prescribe a combination of medicines to suppress the immune system, but these have not proved successful in the long run. In these situations, patients often progress to stage four pulmonary fibrosis, which is the final stage to chronic lung disease. In order to help individuals struggling to breathe, supplemental oxygen can work to prevent shortness of breath and make life more comfortable. Occasionally, pulmonary rehabilitation and nutritional counseling are offered as a means of boosting a patient’s endurance. In the most severe cases, physicians may recommend a lung transplant, but this often has limited availability and extensive requirements for procedure eligibility. Thankfully, a new treatment using stem cells is available as a result of the hard work of a visionary group of physicians dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with lung disease.
The Use of Stem Cells
Stem cells are the building blocks of living organisms. They have the ability for self-renewal and replication, thus are capable of forming any type of tissue or organ in the body. Adult stem cells from one organ are capable of forming tissue for another organ, which is called plasticity. It has been found that adult stem cells are capable of being transferred into any one single organ of the body.
Stem Cell Treatment for Stage Four Pulmonary Fibrosis
In the case of people with stage four pulmonary fibrosis, autologous stem cells are used, meaning the cells come from the patient’s own body. They can be found in the patient’s bone marrow and blood (venous tissue). Stem cells derived from venous tissue have the capability to form many types of differentiated cells. During the procedure, adult stem cells are extracted from bone marrow or blood, which requires special laboratory techniques.
After extraction, the stem cells are isolated. Finally, they are returned to the patient intravenously. The treatment is minimally invasive and typically an outpatient procedure. The procedure should be performed in a clinical setting under the supervision of a professional. It takes a physician that has sought specific training to perform stem cell therapy adequately and safely. If you would like to find out more about our available treatment options, please contact one of our patient care coordinators today at (800) 729-3065 to schedule a free consultation.