Dyspnea in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: a systematic review

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2012 Apr;43(4):771-82. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2011.04.026. Epub 2012 Jan 30.


Context: Little is known about the treatment and correlates of dyspnea in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

Objectives: The objective of this systematic review was to summarize the literature regarding the treatment and correlates of dyspnea in IPF.

Methods: MEDLINE, EMBASE, and all Evidence-Based Medicine Reviews were searched for publications that evaluated treatment or correlates of dyspnea in IPF. Reference lists and recent review articles also were searched.

Results: The heterogeneity of included studies did not permit meta-analysis. Dyspnea improved in studies of sildenafil, pulmonary rehabilitation, and prednisone with colchicine. Additional studies of these three treatments, however, found discordant results. One study suggested that assisted ventilation delivered by facemask improved exertional dyspnea. Oxygen and opioids improve dyspnea in other chronic lung diseases, but data in IPF are limited. Correlates of dyspnea included functional and physiological measures and comorbid diseases.

Conclusion: Sildenafil and pulmonary rehabilitation should be considered as potential therapies for dyspnea in selected patients with IPF. Supplemental oxygen and opioids may be additional potential therapies; however, the evidence supporting their use is weak. Additional research should focus on the management of functional status and comorbidities as potential treatments for dyspnea.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Dyspnea / etiology*
  • Dyspnea / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / complications*
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / therapy*
  • Triiodothyronine / analogs & derivatives


  • Triiodothyronine
  • 3,3',5-triiodothyroacetic acid