Bronchoalveolar lavage in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: what does it tell us?

Respir Med. 2010 Jul:104 Suppl 1:S70-3. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2010.03.019. Epub 2010 May 14.


Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) has only a limited role in diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). A finding of raised neutrophils (>5%) and eosinophils (>2%) is characteristic but not diagnostic of IPF. BAL cell count does not clearly differentiate between fibrotic non-specific interstitial pneumonia and IPF either diagnostically or prognostically. BAL in IPF should be considered in all patients with suspected infection, malignancy or acute exacerbations. In such cases, it may be diagnostic. Because of few and conflicting results BAL fluid analysis has very little clinical relevance determining prognosis and response to treatment in IPF.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology*
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage*
  • Eosinophils
  • Humans
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / diagnosis
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology*
  • Lymphocytes
  • Neutrophils
  • Prognosis