UPMC to join pulmonary fibrosis network
Jim Uhrig's lungs were in such bad shape that his doctor said they sounded like Velcro being pulled apart.
“I felt like I had the flu all the time,” said Uhrig, 68, of Peters. “I'd be tying my shoes and I'd be out of breath.”
A lung specialist diagnosed him with pulmonary fibrosis, a condition in which lung tissue becomes thick and scarred, preventing the lungs from transferring oxygen into the bloodstream. The disease has no cure and can be deadly.
The prevalence of pulmonary fibrosis is grossly underestimated, said Dr. Kevin Gibson, director of UPMC's center for interstitial lung disease. To get a better grasp on the illness, UPMC will become one of nine sites in the country that will establish the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation Care Center Network and Patient Registry.
“To make progress with this disease, we need a multidisciplinary approach by teams of expert medical professionals. We need more data and we need to track the natural history of the disease,” said Dr. Daniel Rose, CEO and chairman of the board of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, which is overseeing the projects.
The foundation says the network will enable medical centers to gather information about the disease, which can be as deadly as some cancers. It intends to expand the network and registry to include 40 medical centers by 2015.
Gibson said the project should help doctors assess treatments patients receive and which ones work. The foundation estimates about 50,000 new cases of so-called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis — the most common type — are diagnosed annually in the United States. The disease kills as many people as breast cancer, or roughly about 40,000 people a year.
Experts say pulmonary fibrosis is not necessarily increasing in frequency but rather being diagnosed more often because of the widespread use of CT scans, by far a better diagnostic tool. Gibson's clinic was forced to expand hours to nine half-day clinics from two half-day clinics 10 years ago.
“Suddenly we're recognizing that a lot of patients were given other lung diagnoses and turned out to have pulmonary fibrosis,” Gibson said, citing patients diagnosed with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, known as COPD.
“The big joke about lung disease is that all patients have two symptoms: shortness of breath and cough,” he said. “Symptoms alone don't distinguish lung disease.”
Uhrig said he had not heard of the disease when doctors diagnosed him at age 63 in May 2008. By the following year, his condition had worsened and he needed oxygen 24 hours a day.
Doctors recommended a lung transplant, a solution they mentioned early on. He received the double- lung transplant in April 2009 and his surgeon told him his own lungs were like bricks that might have lasted only another two months.
“I still feel like I'm getting stronger,” he said.
Luis Fábregas is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7998 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Independence Day festivities scheduled
- Homestead Cemetery records will be preserved
- Newsmaker: Justin Meinert
- Public implored to avoid iPhone cases that resemble guns
- Tradition rules in Pittsburgh: Keep bridge color the same, poll finds
- Police seeking light blue vehicle after Homestead shooting
- Pittsburgh police solve fewer homicides
- Run-down duplex that Dormont helped to rehab not on the market long
- Tiny black weevils booming in W.Pa.
- Higher school taxes prevail in Western Pennsylvania, Trib finds