Advances in the treatment of rheumatic interstitial lung disease

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2004 May;16(3):186-91. doi: 10.1097/00002281-200405000-00004.


Purpose of review: Interstitial lung disease frequently complicates the rheumatic diseases. The purpose of this review is to outline recent advances and current concepts regarding the management of these interstitial lung diseases.

Recent findings: Several histologic lesions cause interstitial lung disease in rheumatic diseases, including nonspecific interstitial pneumonia, usual interstitial pneumonia, organizing pneumonia, lymphocytic interstitial pneumonia, desquamative interstitial pneumonia, and acute interstitial pneumonia. Although the relative frequency of occurrence of these histopathologic lesions is not definitively established, it seems that nonspecific interstitial pneumonia accounts for a large proportion of rheumatic disease-associated interstitial lung diseases. Although usual interstitial pneumonia generally responds poorly to corticosteroid therapy, other forms of interstitial pneumonia are often steroid responsive and have a more favorable long-term prognosis. Pulmonary hypertension is increasingly recognized as a complication of these interstitial lung diseases. Treatment of pulmonary hypertension in these patients provides clinical benefit and may suppress pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis. Lung transplantation is a treatment option for selected patients with severe pulmonary involvement and limited life expectancy.

Summary: Interstitial lung disease is common in the rheumatic diseases, may be caused by a variety of lesions that respond differently to treatment, and may lead to the development of pulmonary hypertension. Whether the prognosis of interstitial lung disease associated with rheumatic disease is similar to that associated with the idiopathic interstitial pneumonias is not known. Treatment of these interstitial lung diseases should take into account the specific histologic lesion, the activity of the underlying rheumatic disease, and associated pulmonary hypertension, if present. The diagnosis of a rheumatic disease is no longer an absolute contraindication to lung transplantation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / drug therapy
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / etiology
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / complications
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / drug therapy*
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / immunology
  • Rheumatic Diseases / complications*
  • Rheumatic Diseases / immunology