Quantitative assessment of lung pathology in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

R. M. Cherniack, T. V. Colby, A. Flint, W. M. Thurlbeck, J. Waldron, L. Ackerson, T. E. King, D. E. Banks, D. Y. Bell, G. S. Davis, J. M. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


The diagnosis and classification of most interstitial lung diseases requires histologic evaluation of lung tissue, obtained by an open lung biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. In addition, it is generally accepted that response to therapy in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is related to the relative degree of cellularity and fibrosis present. Because only a qualitative assessment of the relative extent and severity of these changes is generally provided, correlation with clinical and physiologic alterations is difficult. This report describes results of a semiquantitative assessment by four pathologists of inflammatory/exudative changes, fibrotic/reparative changes, and airway alterations, in addition to an overall assessment of cellularity and fibrosis in 50 patients with IPF. In 10 randomly selected biopsies examined twice in a blinded fashion, absolute agreement between assessments for a given pathologist varied between 54 and 64% (mean = 57.5%) and in the majority of instances the agreement was greater than would have occurred by chance. There was good agreement for most variables across the four raters on the 101 samples. The mean score for some of the parameters reported by a given rater deviated occasionally from those of the other raters, but no single rater was consistently different from the other raters. A principal component factor analysis revealed that the pathologic features fell into four general groupings: alveolar wall metaplasia, fibrosis, honeycombing, smooth muscle, and vascular changes fell into one group; severity and extent of cellularity in the alveolar wall into a second group; severity and extent of cellularity in the alveolar space into a third group; and interstitial young connective tissue along with granulation tissue in the airways formed the fourth group. The correlations for the factors were significant (p < 0.0001) as follows: 0.7588 for fibrosis, 0.5542 for alveolar wall cellularity, 0.5112 for alveolar space cellularity, and 0.4858 for connective/granulation tissue; the SE of each of these coefficients was 0.0406. We conclude that the scoring system is simple end provides a semiquantitative assessment of pathologic features that may be useful in the evaluation of IPF. The observed variations in scoring point out the importance of tissue evaluation by a panel of pathologists in clinical research and in reporting on the disease activity in IPF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)892-900
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Review of Respiratory Disease
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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