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Questions for Dr. Kennedy
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Posted by: Sharan
Date: April 16, 2003 4:09 AM

What are infiltrates in the lungs? What causes lung infiltrates? What tests show possible causes (other than biopsy)? Depending on possible causes, what heals (reverses) them?

RE: Infiltrates
Posted by: Ron Kennedy, M.D.
Date: April 16, 2003 9:44 AM

"Infiltrate" is a very generic term which does not imply a specific diagnosis. It refers to the collection of fluid where it should not be. For example if a person is receiving an intravenous treatment and the needle slips out of the vein, the fluid which is being infused collects under the skin and is termed an "infiltrate" and what has happened is an "infiltration." In the lungs there are three main causes of infiltration: cancer, infection, and congestive heart failure. Therapy to stop the infiltrate would necessarily be therapy to address the cause. In this context an infiltrate would be a symptom of a disease rather than a disease per se. There is one other cause which comes to mind. Occasionally when ribs are broken, fluid will collect between the lining of the lung and the lining of the chest wall and if in sufficient volume this "infiltrate" can become the cause of respiratory distress. The usual treatment is "aspiration" in which the doctor inserts a needle or tube into the space and drains the fluid.

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