Diagnosis of IPF

Diagnosis is very difficult. It is often late in the course of disease as symptoms may be confused with normal ageing. Symptoms are similar to other lung conditions, such as COPD.

A full history of the patients symptoms is essential including:

  • Occupational factors - dust, chemicals and other exposures.
  • Smoking- may be useful to know number of packs per week, e-cigarettes or a combination of both, any previous illegal substances.
  • Family history of IPF.
  • Infections – how often and how did the person recover, did they need hospital admission?
  • Trauma to the lungs.

Blood tests are also taken to help exclude alternative diagnoses:

  • Full Blood Count.
  • Urea & Electrolytes.     

Diagnosis – who’s who?

  • Consultant respiratory physician.
  • Consultant radiologist.
  • Respiratory specialist nurse.
  • Multidisciplinary team coordinator.


  • Chest X-Ray- however this can often normal in early stages of IPF.
  • High Resolution Computer Tomography- cross-sections of the body provide detailed images of the lung tissues.
  • Full Pulmonary Function Tests:- Spirometry is often normal until the IPF is at an advanced stage.
  • TLco test - Patients will often have reduced gas transfer on this test to measure the amount of oxygen getting in to the blood. This can be an early indictor for IPF.
  • Lung biopsy- to sample lung tissue for microbiological tests- (not performed routinely as it is invasive with high rate of side effects).