Objectives: Pulmonary complications of RA are well described. Although some are benign, interstitial lung disease (ILD) has a poor prognosis. Few RA inception cohorts have reported the natural history of ILD related to RA (RA-ILD). We examine its incidence, outcome and prognostic indicators.
Methods: Extra-articular features and comorbidity have been recorded yearly in a well-established inception cohort of RA with a 20-year follow-up. Standard clinical, laboratory and radiological measures of RA were recorded at baseline and yearly. Details of deaths were provided by a national central register.
Results: Out of 1460 patients, 52 developed RA-ILD, half either at baseline or within 3 years of onset. The annualized incidence was 4.1/1000 (95% CI 3.0, 5.4) and the 15-year cumulative incidence 62.9/1000 (95% CI 43.0, 91.7). Incidence of RA-ILD was associated with older age, raised baseline ESR and HAQ. Evidence to implicate any drug effect (e.g. MTX) was lacking. Of these patients, 39 died, attributed to RA-ILD in 28. Median survival following diagnosis of RA-ILD was 3 years.
Conclusions: RA-ILD is an important and early feature of RA. It is related to disease activity and has a poor prognosis. Further studies are required to determine whether screening for pulmonary disease would identify these patients at an earlier stage.