Historical database cohort study addressing the clinical patterns prior to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) diagnosis in UK primary care

David R. Thickett, Jaco Voorham, Ronan Ryan, Rupert C. M. Jones, Robina Coker, Andrew Wilson, Sen Yang, Mandy Ow, Priyanka Raju, Isha Chaudhry, Antony Hardjojo, Victoria Carter, David Price (Lead Author)

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OBJECTIVE: To explore the clinical pathways, including signs and symptoms, and symptom progression patterns preceding idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) diagnosis. DESIGN AND SETTING: A historical cohort study was conducted using primary care patient records from the Optimum Patient Care Research Database. PARTICIPANTS: Patients included were at least 30 years, had IPF diagnosis, identified via clinical-coding and free-text records and had a consultation with a chest specialist prior to IPF diagnosis. OUTCOME MEASURES: The signs and symptoms in the year prior to IPF diagnosis from clinical codes and free-text in primary care electronic records included: cough, dyspnoea, dry cough, weight loss, fatigue/malaise, loss of appetite, crackles and clubbed fingers. The time course of presentations of clinical features and investigations in the years prior to IPF diagnosis were mapped. RESULTS: Within 462 patients identified, the majority (77.9%) had a respiratory consultation within 365 days prior to the chest specialist visit preceding the IPF diagnosis recorded in their primary care records. The most common symptoms recorded in the 1 year prior to IPF diagnosis were dyspnoea (48.7%) and cough (40.9%); other signs and symptoms were rarely recorded (<5%). The majority of patients with cough (58.0%) and dyspnoea (55.0%) in the 1 year before IPF diagnosis had multiple recordings of the respective symptoms. Both cough and dyspnoea were recorded in 23.4% of patients in the year prior to diagnosis. Consultation rates for cough, dyspnoea and both, but not other signs or symptoms, began to increase 4 to 5 years prior diagnosis, with the sharpest increase in the last year. Cough and dyspnoea were often preceded by a reduction in measured weight over 5 years leading to IPF diagnosis. CONCLUSION: Prolonged cough and/or progressive dyspnoea, especially if accompanied with weight loss, should signal for a referral to specialist assessment at the earliest opportunity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere034428
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2020


  • Interstitial Lung Disease
  • Free-text Record
  • Pathway Features
  • principal component analysis

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