Background: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a debilitating lung disease with a survival of only three to five years from the time of diagnosis. Due to a paucity of studies, large gaps remain in our understanding of how IPF affects the quality of patients' lives. In only one other study did investigators ask patients directly for their perspectives on this topic. Further, currently there is no disease-specific instrument to measure health-related quality of life (HRQL) in patients with IPF. A carefully constructed measurement instrument, sensitive to underlying change, is needed for use in clinical trials and longitudinal studies of patients with IPF. Before developing such an instrument, researchers must improve their understanding of the relevant effects of IPF on patients' lives. On a broader scale, to provide the best care for people with IPF, clinicians must appreciate--from patients' perspectives--how this disease affects various aspects of their lives.
Methods: We used focus groups and individual in-depth interviews with 20 IPF patients to collect their perspectives on how IPF affects their lives (with a focus on the quality of their lives). We then analyzed these perspectives and organized them into a conceptual framework for describing HRQL in patients with IPF. Next, we examined how well certain existing measurement instruments--which have been administered to IPF patients in prior studies--covered the domains and topics our patients identified.
Results: In our framework, we identified 12 primary domains: symptoms, IPF therapy, sleep, exhaustion, forethought, employment and finances, dependence, family, sexual relations, social participation, mental and spiritual well-being, mortality. Each domain is composed of several topics, which describe how IPF affects patients' lives. When we compared the content of our conceptual framework with the existing instruments, we found the coverage of the existing instruments to be inadequate for several reasons, including they may tap general areas of QOL or HRQL but not some areas that appear to be most directly affected by IPF, and they include items that are relevant to symptoms and effects of other respiratory diseases but not IPF.
Conclusion: Collecting patients' perspectives and developing an organized inventory of the relevant effects of IPF on patients' lives provides valuable information for improving our understanding of the impact of this disease on patients and their loved ones. We believe our findings will help alert clinicians and researchers to IPF patients' experiences and concerns. Based on the comparison or our conceptual framework with the content of four existing instruments, it would appear that developing an IPF-specific measurement instrument is justified. Our conceptual framework for describing health-related quality of life in patients with IPF lays a solid foundation for constructing such an instrument.