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.

Obtaining a Diagnosis

Patients with PF 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

Symptoms usually have a gradual onset and may include:

pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis Shortness of breath, particularly during or after physical activity
Shortness of breath, particularly during or after physical activity
pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis spastic dry cough
Spasmodic, dry cough
pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis gradual, weight loss
Gradual, untended weight loss
pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis  fatique and weakness
Fatigue and weakness
pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis chest discomfort
Chest discomfort
Clubbing, or enlargement of the ends of fingers (or sometimes the toes) due to a buildup of tissue
Clubbing, or enlargement of the ends of fingers (or sometimes the toes) due to a buildup of tissue

Three Consequences of PF

Scar tissue and inflammation makes it harder to breathe. It takes a greater effort to inhale, causing a feeling of breathlessness, or shortness of breath, especially with exertion. The more scar tissue present in the lungs, the less air they can hold.

Scar tissue inhibits the transfer of oxygen from the lung’s air sacs into the blood. For many people living with pulmonary fibrosis, oxygen levels are only slightly reduced while in a resting state, but drops significantly more with exertion. Doctors often prescribe supplemental oxygen. As pulmonary fibrosis progresses, oxygen may be needed 24/7 and the flow rate may need to increase.

The doctor may indicate that “crackles” were heard in the lungs, similar to Velcro being pulled apart. This is very common, although not everyone has them. Crackles can be heard in many lung diseases including PF, pneumonia, or a buildup of fluid in the lungs from heart failure.

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