Diagnosing IPF

The diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) can be difficult, mainly because the symptoms are similar to other more common long-term lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

If your GP suspects you may have IPF, you will usually be referred to a chest (respiratory) specialist in hospital for further tests.

These include:Dr listening to patient's chest

  • Listening to your chest with a stethoscope – often crackles can be heard in your lower lungs that suggest you may have IPF
  • Blood and urine tests to rule out other diseases
  • Lung function tests, such as spirometry and gas transfer tests
  • Chest x-ray
  • High resolution computerised tomography (CT)
  • An echocardiogram

Often your doctor can make a diagnosis of IPF after examining you and looking at your CT scan and lung function tests. However, sometimes your doctor will need to do more investigations in order to confirm the diagnosis. This might be either a bronchoscopy or a lung biopsy.

What does a diagnosis of IPF mean?

The symptoms of IPF will often become worse over time. The rate at which symptoms get worse varies from person to person. Some people with IPF will experience long periods where their symptoms are stable and there is little decline in their condition. For others there may be a more rapid decline and worsening of symptoms.

At the moment there is no cure for IPF. Whilst the average length of survival after diagnosis is between 3 and 5 years, many people survive longer than this.

Find out more about how IPF is diagnosed in the CHSS booklet Living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (PDF).