Background: The consensus statement on the Diagnosis and Therapy of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) formulated by the American Thoracic Society/European Respiratory Society (ATS/ERS) was published in 2000. Acceptance and implementation of these guidelines have not been assessed. We surveyed the fellows of the American College of Chest Physicians (FCCP) to establish current practice patterns regarding the diagnosis and therapy of IPF.
Methods: We electronically distributed a 32-item questionnaire to all 6443 pulmonary medicine board-certified Fellows of the American College of Chest Physicians. The response rate was 13%. Demographic characteristics were similar between respondents and non-respondents.
Results: Seventy-two percent of respondents were familiar with the ATS/ERS consensus statement and 63% found it clinically useful. However, a similar number of respondents indicated that an update is needed. Bronchoscopy and surgical lung biopsy are used infrequently. Forty-five percent of pulmonary physicians advocate providing only supportive care for patients outside of clinical trials. If pharmacological therapy is recommended, prednisone (either alone or in combination with azathioprine) or off-label agents are preferentially prescribed. Despite physician awareness (79%) of clinical trials, interested patients are not consistently referred (54%). A majority of respondents (61%) felt that lung transplantation represents the only effective therapy for IPF, and 86% refer their patients to lung transplant centers.
Conclusions: There is substantial variability among pulmonary physicians in the diagnosis and management of IPF. This may, in part, reflect the current lack of effective pharmacologic therapy. Updated practice guidelines are needed for the diagnosis and therapy of IPF.