Review series: Aspects of interstitial lung disease: connective tissue disease-associated interstitial lung disease: how does it differ from IPF? How should the clinical approach differ?

Chron Respir Dis. 2011;8(1):53-82. doi: 10.1177/1479972310393758.


The lung is frequently involved in connective tissue diseases (CTDs), although the frequency of lung manifestations varies according to the type of CTD. Interstitial lung diseases (ILD) are frequently seen in CTDs, particularly systemic sclerosis (SSc), polymyositis/dermatomyositis (PM/DM) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), accounting for a significant proportion of deaths. A large percentage of patients with CTD-associated ILD has limited and stable disease, not requiring treatment. However, a significant minority has severe and/or progressive disease, necessitating prompt initiation of treatment. CTD-ILD histological patterns include non-specific interstitial pneumonia (NSIP), usual interstitial pneumonia (UIP), organizing pneumonia (OP), diffuse alveolar damage (DAD) and lymphocytic interstitial pneumonia (LIP). NSIP is the most common pattern in all CTDs, except for RA, characterized by a higher frequency of UIP. ILD can present acutely or chronically, with acute presentations being more common in systemic lupus erythematosus and PM/DM. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressively worsening ILD characterized by inflammation and fibrosis. The characteristic histological pattern of IPF is UIP. Interestingly, a UIP pattern is associated with a significantly better survival in CTD-related disease compared to the idiopathic variety. Prognosis in IPF is dismal, with a median survival since diagnosis of 2-3 years. No treatment regimen has been shown to improve survival in IPF. By contrast, although there have been only two randomized placebo-controlled trials investigating the effect of immunosuppressive treatment in SSc-associated ILD, clinical experience suggests that immunosuppressive drugs in CTD-related ILDs are capable of benefiting a significant proportion of patients, particularly those with certain histological patterns of disease. This review will essentially focus on CTD-associated ILD and will compare aspects of clinical presentation and management to those of IPF.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Connective Tissue Diseases / complications*
  • Connective Tissue Diseases / drug therapy
  • Connective Tissue Diseases / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / drug therapy
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / mortality
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / complications*
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / drug therapy
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / mortality
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / pathology*
  • Prognosis


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Immunosuppressive Agents