Purpose: Pulmonary hypertension is a severe complication of systemic sclerosis and has emerged as a major cause of morbidity and mortality in this condition. Treatment is all the more efficient as pulmonary hypertension is early diagnosed. A good knowledge of the clinical, biological and functional features of pulmonary hypertension in systemic sclerosis is therefore necessary to suspect and to diagnose pulmonary hypertension as early as possible.
Methods: Sixty seven patients with systemic sclerosis were retrospectively studied. We compared clinical, immunological, functional (spirometry) and morphological (pulmonary fibrosis) features according to the presence (n = 25) and the characteristic of pulmonary hypertension (isolated or secondary) or the absence (n = 42) of pulmonary hypertension, assessed by Doppler echocardiography.
Results: CREST syndrome (calcinosis, Raynaud's phenomenon, oesophageal involvement, sclerodactyly and telangiectasia) was more frequent in patients with isolated pulmonary hypertension than in patients without PH (72.7% vs 28.5%, P < 0.05; odds-ratio [OR] = 6.6) and dyspnea was more severe (P < 0.001; OR = 11.4). The age at time of pulmonary hypertension diagnosis was higher in patients with secondary pulmonary hypertension than in patients with isolated from (median: 62.5 years (range: 32-35) vs 53 years (range: 37-85), P < 0.05). Patients with isolated pulmonary hypertension had anticardiolipin antibodies more frequently than patients without pulmonary hypertension (72.7% vs 35.7%, P < 0.05). Isolated reduction of diffusing capacity was preferentially observed among patients with isolated pulmonary hypertension than among those without pulmonary hypertension. A linear relation between systolic pulmonary artery pressure values and diffusing capacity values (r = 0.72, P < 0.01) was found. Isolated reduction of diffusing capacity was more frequent in patients with isolated pulmonary hypertension than in patients without pulmonary hypertension (63.6% vs 14.3%, P < 0.001; OR = 10.5).
Conclusion: The severity of pulmonary hypertension in systemic sclerosis justifies a systematic screening by Doppler echocardiography and diffusing capacity measurement. Our results allow us to better define the characteristics of sclerodermic patients with isolated or secondary pulmonary hypertension. The search for pulmonary hypertension should be repeated with time and clinicians should be particularly vigilant in the case of a patient presenting these characteristics.