Objective: To define risk factors associated with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) in a large cohort of patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc).
Methods: SSc patients undergoing screening for PAH by means of Doppler echocardiography were identified and their charts were retrospectively reviewed. In all patients, we recorded systolic pulmonary artery pressure along with pulmonary function testing, clinical, and laboratory data. PAH was defined as right ventricular systolic pressure equal or greater than 40 mm Hg.
Results: Of 114 SSc patients with echocardiographic measurements, PAH was found in 33 (29%) patients. In a multiple logistic regression analysis, the presence of pulmonary fibrosis on thoracic computed tomography (OR 6.78, CI 1.54 to 29.9), forced vital capacity less than 80% predicted (OR 3.03, CI 1.1 to 8.35), and duration of Raynaud's phenomenon preceding the onset of skin changes for at least 3 years (OR 5.75, CI 1.9 to 17.41) were found to be independent predictors of PAH. Age, disease duration, disease subtype, or autoantibodies were not associated with PAH in our patients.
Conclusions: The present analysis identified pulmonary fibrosis and Raynaud's phenomenon preceding SSc skin manifestations by at least 3 years as risk factors for PAH in our scleroderma cohort. Screening for PAH in these high-risk patients may detect PAH at an earlier stage and guide decisions on therapeutic interventions.