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Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)

How is IPF diagnosed?

A team of several experts (called a multi-disciplinary team), often at specialist hospitals, will collect information about you before making a diagnosis. This is because there are many types of pulmonary fibrosis.  

IPF is one of many different types of pulmonary fibrosis. This means diagnosing IPF will involve a lot of tests to rule out the other types of pulmonary fibrosis. Your doctor is likely to listen to your chest and ask about your family, medication, work, and medical history. You may also have blood tests to rule out other causes for your symptoms. 

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

You may need tests such as:  

  • a CT scan to produce a detailed image of your lungs
  • breathing tests, such as spirometry, to measure how well your lungs are working
  • a bronchoscopy to see inside the lung and get samples of the lung tissue – this is done using a small tube with a camera
  • a lung biopsy, where tissue or cells are taken from the lung for testing. 

IPF sometimes shows up as a honeycomb pattern on the lungs in a CT scan. The image shows lots of empty pockets or bubbles appearing where more solid-looking tissue would normally appear.  

Being diagnosed with IPF might feel overwhelming at first. It can help to talk to your family and friends about it. You may want to read our information about looking after your mental health too. 

Our Helpline is also here to support you in dealing with your diagnosis. Speak to a member of the team on 0300 222 5800 (Mon-Fri – 9am-5pm). 

Read next: treatment for IPF

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Last medically reviewed: February 2022. Due for review: February 2025

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.