Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) occurs predominantly in middle-aged and older adults and accounts for 20% to 30% of interstitial lung diseases. It is usually progressive, resulting in respiratory failure and death. Diagnostic criteria for IPF have evolved over the years, and IPF is currently defined as a disease characterized by the histopathologic pattern of usual interstitial pneumonia occurring in the absence of an identifiable cause of lung injury. Understanding of the pathogenesis of IPF has shifted away from chronic inflammation and toward dysregulated fibroproliferative repair in response to alveolar epithelial injury. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is likely a heterogeneous disorder caused by various interactions between genetic components and environmental exposures. High-resolution computed tomography can be diagnostic in the presence of typical findings such as bilateral reticular opacities associated with traction bronchiectasis/bronchiolectasis in a predominantly basal and subpleural distribution, along with subpleural honeycombing. In other circumstances, a surgical lung biopsy may be needed. The clinical course of IPF can be unpredictable and may be punctuated by acute deteriorations (acute exacerbation). Although progress continues in unraveling the mechanisms of IPF, effective therapy has remained elusive. Thus, clinicians and patients need to reach informed decisions regarding management options including lung transplant. The findings in this review were based on a literature search of PubMed using the search terms idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and usual interstitial pneumonia, limited to human studies in the English language published from January 1, 2000, through December 31, 2013, and supplemented by key references published before the year 2000.
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