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Am J Med. 2010 Apr;123(4):304-11. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2009.07.033.

Does chronic microaspiration cause idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis?

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Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA.


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a diffuse fibrotic lung disease of unknown etiology with no effective treatment. Emerging data support a role for chronic microaspiration (ie, subclinical aspiration of small droplets) in the pathogenesis and natural history of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. However, the precise relationship between chronic microaspiration and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis remains unknown. Gastroesophageal reflux, a presumed risk factor for microaspiration, has been strongly associated with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis with an estimated prevalence of up to 90%. This review aims to describe the relationship between chronic microaspiration and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis by laying out the clinical and biologic rationale for this relationship and exploring the scientific evidence available. The gaps in our current understanding of the diagnosis of chronic microaspiration and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and the ongoing uncertainties in management and treatment will be highlighted. Defining the role of chronic microaspiration in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is essential as it has potential clinical, pathobiological, and treatment implications for this deadly disease.

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