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Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)

How is IPF diagnosed?

There are many different types of pulmonary fibrosis, not just IPF, so a multidisciplinary team of experts, often at a specialist hospital, will gather a lot of information about you before a definite diagnosis of IPF can be made.

If you have IPF, doctors listening to your chest can often hear crackles in your lungs that sound like opening velcro.

Your doctor will listen to your chest, ask about your medical, family, medication and work history, and order blood tests to rule out other causes.

You may need tests such as:

  • a CT scan to produce a very detailed image of your lungs

On a CT scan, IPF often shows up as a distinctive pattern on the lungs. You might hear your doctor call this honeycomb lung. The image shows lots of empty pockets or bubbles appearing where more solid-looking lung tissue would normally appear.

  • breathing tests to measure how well your lungs are working

  • a bronchoscopy, where a narrow tube with a camera is passed down into your lungs, so the doctor can see inside and also get samples of lung tissue or cells for analysis

  • a lung biopsy. A chest surgeon may be asked to do a keyhole operation under anaesthetic to obtain samples of lung tissue for examination under a microscope. This information can be very helpful in identifying the cause of the fibrosis if other investigations haven’t been conclusive.

Further information:

Find out about the support on offer and how to look after yourself if you have IPF

Next: Treatment for IPF >


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Last medically reviewed: August 2019. Due for review: August 2022

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.