Objective: To describe the clinical presentation, diagnosis, and prognosis of a cohort of Dutch patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a serious and rapidly progressive lung disease belonging to the idiopathic interstitial pneumonias.
Design: Retrospective study of patient records.
Method: The data from the clinical presentation, diagnosis, treatment and survival of all patients with IPF, diagnosed in the St. Antonius Hospital in Nieuwegein and University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU), both in the Netherlands, during the period 1998-2007 were investigated. For the diagnosis, the criteria of the American Thoracic Society and the European Respiratory Society from 2002 were adhered to.
Results: The records of 113 patients satisfied the inclusion criteria. Mean age at the time of presentation was 61.9 (SD: 12.7) years and a strong male predominance was observed (90 men vs. 23 women). The most common complaints and symptoms at presentation were dyspnoea, cough, basal crepitations and clubbing of the nails. Lung function tests revealed restrictive lung function impairment and a reduced diffusing capacity. In 72% of cases the diagnosis IPF was histologically confirmed by open lung biopsy, which revealed a pattern of usual interstitial pneumonia (UIP). In 17% of patients it concerned a familial form of the disease with diagnosis at a younger age (average 52 years; SD: 14.8). The medical treatment mostly consisted of corticosteroids, which for half of the patients were administered in combination with an immunosuppressant such as azathioprine or cyclophosphamide. After screening, 28 patients were eligible for lung transplantation. Of these, 12 patients underwent a lung transplantation in the study period, 9 died and 7 are still on the waiting list. The median survival period was 3.9 years.
Conclusion: In the cohort studied, IPF presented as a rapidly progressive disease with only a marginal response to medical treatment and a poor prognosis. It is important to differentiate IPF from other fibrotic interstitial lung diseases and to refer to a specialist centre, especially in the case of patients who could be eligible for a lung transplant or for participation in trials with new drugs.