Histopathologic assessment of suspected idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: Where we are and where we need to go

Maxwell L. Smith, Lida P. Hariri, Mari Mino-Kenudson, Sanja Dacic, Richard Attanoos, Alain Borczuk, Thomas V. Colby, Wendy Cooper, Kirk D. Jones, Kevin O. Leslie, Annabelle Mahar, Brandon T. Larsen, Alberto Cavazza, Jun Fukuoka, Anja C. Roden, Lynette M. Sholl, Henry D. Tazelaar, Andrew Churg, Mary Beth Beasley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Context. - Accurate diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) requires multidisciplinary diagnosis that includes clinical, radiologic, and often pathologic assessment. In 2018, the American Thoracic Society, European Respiratory Society, Japanese Respiratory Society, and the Latin American Thoracic Society (ATS/ERS/JRS/ALAT) and the Fleischner Society each published guidelines for the diagnosis of IPF, which include criteria for 4 categories of confidence of a histologic usual interstitial pneumonia (UIP) pattern. Objective. - To (1) identify the role of the guidelines in pathologic assessment of UIP; (2) analyze the 4 guideline categories, including potential areas of difficulty; and (3) determine steps the Pulmonary Pathology Society and the greater pulmonary pathology community can take to improve current guideline criteria and histopathologic diagnosis of interstitial lung disease. Data Sources. - Data were derived from the guidelines, published literature, and clinical experience. Conclusions. - Both guidelines provide pathologists with a tool to relay to the clinician the likelihood that a biopsy represents UIP, and serve as an adjunct, not a replacement, for traditional histologic diagnosis. There are multiple challenges with implementing the guidelines, including (1) lack of clarity on the quantity and quality of histologic findings required, (2) lack of recognition that histologic features cannot be assessed independently, and (3) lack of guidance on how pathologists should incorporate clinical and radiographic information. Current criteria for ''probable UIP'' and ''indeterminate for UIP'' hinder accurate reflection of the likelihood of IPF. These challenges highlight the need for further morphologic-based investigations in the field of pulmonary pathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1477-1489
Number of pages13
JournalArchives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


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