Background: Benchmarking is the comparison of a process to the work or results of others. We conducted a national benchmarking exercise to determine how UK pulmonologists manage common clinical scenarios in diffuse parenchymal lung disease (DPLD), and to determine current use and availability of investigative resources. We compared management decisions to existing international guidelines.
Methods: Consultant members of the British Thoracic Society were mailed a questionnaire seeking their views on the management of three common scenarios in DPLD. They were asked to choose from various management options for each case. Information was also obtained from the respondents on time served as a consultant, type of institution in which they worked and the availability of a local radiologist and histopathologist with an interest/expertise in thoracic medicine.
Results: 370 out of 689 consultants replied (54% response rate). There were many differences in the approach to the management of all three cases. Given a scenario of relapsing pulmonary sarcoidosis in a lady with multiple co-morbidities, half of respondents would institute treatment with a variety of immunosuppressants while a half would simply observe. 42% would refer a 57-year old lady with new onset DPLD for a surgical lung biopsy, while a similar number would not. 80% would have referred her for transplantation, but a fifth would not. 50% of consultants from district general hospitals would have opted for a surgical biopsy compared to 24% from cardiothoracic centres: this may reflect greater availability of a radiologist with special interest in thoracic imaging in cardiothoracic centres, obviating the need for tissue diagnosis. Faced with an elderly male with high resolution CT thorax (HRCT) evidence of usual interstitial pneumonia (UIP), three quarters would observe, while a quarter would start immunosuppressants. 11% would refer for a surgical biopsy. 14% of UK pulmonologists responding to the survey revealed they had no access to a radiologist with an interest in thoracic radiology.
Conclusion: From our survey, it appears there is a lack of consensus in the management of DPLD. This may reflect lack of evidence, lack of resources or a failure to implement current guidelines.