Minor salivary gland biopsy to detect primary Sjogren syndrome in patients with interstitial lung disease

Chest. 2009 Oct;136(4):1072-1078. doi: 10.1378/chest.08-2839. Epub 2009 May 8.


Purposes: To describe a cohort of patients who presented with interstitial lung disease (ILD) of unknown cause, features of primary Sjögren syndrome (pSS), and a positive minor salivary gland biopsy (MSGB).

Methods: Thirty-eight patients with ILD evaluated at our center underwent an MSGB to confirm a diagnosis of pSS. All of the samples were reviewed by pathologists experienced in the evaluation of salivary gland histology. We defined a positive MSGB finding as a lymphocyte focus score of >1.

Results: At presentation, all patients had ILD, and symptoms of cough and dyspnea. None had a definable connective tissue disease (CTD) or known cause for their ILD. Thirteen patients (34%) had positive MSGB findings. Of these, the median age was 61 years (age range, 33 to 75 years); 7 patients (54%) were women; 8 patients (62%) had a smoking history; and 10 patients (77%) had sicca symptoms. In all patients, a thoracic high-resolution CT scan evaluation demonstrated bibasilar, peripheral-predominant, ground-glass, and reticular opacities. Four patients (31%) were negative for both antinuclear autoantibody (ANA) and rheumatoid factor (RF) autoantibody, and three patients (23%) were negative for ANA, RF, Sjögren syndrome (SS)-A, and SS-B autoantibodies. No patients experienced any complications from the MSGB. The identification of underlying pSS did not affect the management of ILD in these patients.

Conclusions: Confirming a diagnosis of pSS-related ILD by performing MSGB allows for a more precise CTD classification. This study provides evidence that CTD may exist subclinically, and longitudinal studies are needed to determine whether identifying occult CTD impacts on management, longitudinal changes in lung function, or survival.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autoantibodies / analysis
  • Biopsy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / complications*
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / etiology
  • Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Salivary Glands, Minor / pathology*
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / pathology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Autoantibodies