Lungs Home > Diagnosing Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

In order to diagnose idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), your healthcare provider will begin by asking several questions, followed by a physical exam. Diagnosing the condition also includes performing certain tests, such as a chest x-ray and exercise testing. The test that is most useful for making an IPF diagnosis is the video-assisted thoracoscopy, in which a camera is inserted into the lungs and biopsies are taken.

How Is Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Diagnosed?

In order to make a diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a healthcare provider will begin by asking a number of questions. This will include questions about:
  • Your current symptoms
  • Your work history
  • Any medications you are taking
  • Any medical conditions you may have
  • Your family's history of medical conditions
  • Whether you smoke.
He or she will also perform a physical exam to look for signs of pulmonary fibrosis (although, in most cases, the physical exam is initially normal). The healthcare provider may then recommend tests to help make a diagnosis.

Tests to Diagnose Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

There is no single test for diagnosing IPF. Therefore, your healthcare provider will probably recommend several different tests. Some of these tests may include:
  • A chest x-ray
  • High-resolution computerized tomography (HRCT)
  • Pulmonary function tests
  • A tuberculosis skin test (TB skin test)
  • Exercise testing
  • A bronchoscopy
  • A lung biopsy.
Chest X-Ray
A chest x-ray takes a picture of your heart and lungs. It can show shadows that suggest scar tissue. However, not everyone with IPF has an abnormal chest x-ray. In fact, it is thought that about 16 percent of people with IPF have normal chest x-rays at the time they're diagnosed.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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