This retrospective study describes the clinical course of 38 patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU). There were 25 males and 13 females who were the mean age of 68.3 +/- 11.5 years. Twenty patients were on corticosteroids at the time of admission to the hospital, and 24 had been on home oxygen therapy. The most common reason for ICU admission was respiratory failure. The Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation III-predicted ICU and hospital mortality rates were 12% and 26%, whereas the actual ICU and hospital mortality rates were 45% and 61%, respectively. We did not find significant differences in pulmonary function or echocardiogram findings between survivors and nonsurvivors. Mechanical ventilation was used in 19 patients (50%). Sepsis developed in nine patients. Multiple organ failure developed in 14% of the survivors and in 43% of the nonsurvivors (p = 0.14). Ninety-two percent of the hospital survivors died at a median of 2 months after discharge. These findings suggest that patients with IPF admitted to the ICU have poor short- and long-term prognosis. Patients with IPF and their families should be informed about the overall outlook when they make decisions about life support and ICU care.