Pulmonary Fibrosis Diagnosis

It’s a different path for each individual which is why pulmonary fibrosis is so difficult to diagnose. It takes two years on average for patients to receive their pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis.

Early Detection

Early Detection is Key

Since it’s a rare disease, pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is not top of mind for most family practitioners. The 2022 CPFF Patient and Caregiver Survey highlights that many patients wait two or more years for a confirmed diagnosis.

PF symptoms cannot be reversed by the treatment medication, only slowed down. More awareness by the public and medical professionals can result in earlier diagnosis so treatments can start sooner for patients at a less severe stage of the disease.

Learn about symptoms

Explore diagnosis resources

Get a quick overview of pulmonary fibrosis

Obtaining a Diagnosis

Patients with pulmonary fibrosis experience symptoms that are often subtle and similar to other lung disorders. For a pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis, a doctor will take a complete medical history and perform a thorough physical examination. During this examination, the doctor will listen to the patient’s chest to determine if their lungs are producing any abnormal sounds while breathing.

Types of pulmonary fibrosis

Once a doctor suspects pulmonary fibrosis, the next step is to try to diagnose the specific type of pulmonary fibrosis — there are more than 200 different kinds. Doctors typically start by asking questions, performing a careful physical examination, and ordering several blood tests.

Diagnostic Tests or Procedures

Chest Imaging

When looking for a pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis, this test helps the clinician view lung structures, look for scar tissue, and assess patterns of scarring.

Radiologic machines are used to take pictures of your lungs, such as x-ray or High-Resolution Computer Tomography (HRCT).

Pulmonary Function Test

Measures the degree of impairment in lung function using a device with a mouthpiece to measure a patient’s breathing capacity.

Exercise Test or Desaturation Study

When looking for a pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis, this test measures how well the lungs and heart respond to physical activity and evaluate oxygen levels with exertion by monitoring the patient while using a treadmill or stationary bicycle.

Six Minute Walk Test (SMWT)

Measures the distance a person can walk as well as lung function during the walk. During this test the patient walks on a flat surface as far as possible in six minutes.

Lung Biopsy

A procedure in which a lung tissue sample is obtained through a bronchoscope or by means of a small surgical incision (VATS – video-assisted thoracic surgery) between the ribs (open-lung biopsy) for direct examination

Symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis

Tackle the Crackle© – Common Early Symptoms

Early detection is vital to slowing down the disease, so primary care professionals as well as all Canadians need to know PF can start with these common symptoms:

Persistent cough that won’t go away after more than 3 months

Shortness of breath after physical activity that was typically not a problem

Ongoing fatigue, weight loss

If you have any of these symptoms ask your Dr. to listen for the tell-tale lung crackles.

Ongoing PF Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms usually have a gradual onset and may include:

Shortness of breath, particularly during or after physical activity
Spasmodic, dry cough
Gradual, unintended weight loss
Fatigue and weakness
Chest discomfort
Clubbing, or enlargement of the ends of fingers (or sometimes the toes) due to a buildup of tissue
Lung “crackles”
Decreased blood oxygen levels

Pulmonary Fibrosis & Other Conditions

Pulmonary Fibrosis  Looms Large for a Growing Number  of Canadians  

Many with long COVID-19 and connective tissue diseases are also more prone to PF

Research studies done across the world are shedding light on the growing rate of pulmonary fibrosis (PF) being found in people suffering from long-term COVID-19.

Tune in as Dr. Janet Pope shares what you need to know about interstitial lung disease (ILD) in connective tissue diseases.

Ask your dr. about your risk of pulmonary fibrosis

The researchers also show significant increases in PF for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians suffering from connective tissue diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, myositis, lupus and scleroderma.

More on Pulmonary Fibrosis Diagnosis

Genetics and ILD

Genetics & ILD – Dr. Grant-Orser & Dr. Johannson

ILD respirologists Dr. Amanda Grant-Orser and Dr. Kerri Johannson discuss how genetics can be an important tool for patients with ILD, shared the results of a recent national patient survey, and explained genetic testing in Canada.

Dr. Matthew Binnie

Navigating a New Pulmonary Fibrosis Diagnosis

In this webinar, Dr. Matthew Binnie discusses how to navigate a new pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis . Dr. Binnie is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto and Staff Physician at the Toronto Lung Transplant Program.

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