Reviewed by Cecile S. Rose, MD, MPH

Bronchiolitis obliterans usually causes a dry cough and shortness of breath, especially on exertion, two to eight weeks after toxic fume exposure or a respiratory illness. It may be several months or years until it presents itself after a transplant.

Fatigue and wheezing in the absence of a cold or asthma are other symptoms of this lung disease.

Imaging tests (such as high resolution chest CT scan) and pulmonary function tests can help detect bronchiolitis obliterans. Chest x-rays are usually normal, and pulmonary function tests may decline slowly in some types of bronchiolitis obliterans, requiring repeat medical testing and follow up. A surgical lung biopsy, however, is the most definitive way to diagnose the disease.

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