Respiratory symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis: relation to pulmonary abnormalities detected by high-resolution CT and pulmonary functional testing

Rheumatol Int. 2012 Jul;32(7):1985-95. doi: 10.1007/s00296-011-1905-z. Epub 2011 Apr 3.


Pulmonary disease is the most frequent and among the most severe extra-articular manifestation of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, this issue has not been sufficiently studied in Egyptian patients. The objectives of the present study are to investigate the prevalence and types of pulmonary involvement using high-resolution computed tomography scan (HRCT) and pulmonary function tests (PFT) and evaluate the association between respiratory symptoms and RA-lung disease in a group of Egyptian RA patients. Thirty-six RA patients were recruited; 34 females (94.4%) and 2 males (5.6%) with median age of 48.5 years, and none of them was smoker. Detailed medical and drug histories were obtained. PFT, plain X-ray of the chest, and HRCT were performed to all subjects involved. Nearly 64% of RA patients demonstrated abnormalities in PFT and 47% in HRCT. Mixed restrictive and obstructive pattern was the commonest. Nearly two-thirds of our patients reported one or more pulmonary symptom whether dyspnea, cough, wheezing, or phlegm. Dyspnea was the most frequent symptom. Respiratory symptoms were statistically more common in patients with lung disease. The advanced age, high radiological score, and severity of rheumatoid disease were found to be predictive of lung involvement. Among respiratory symptoms, dyspnea and cough were associated with any pulmonary abnormalities. When specific pulmonary abnormalities were considered, only dyspnea was identified as predictor for restriction. For obstructive abnormality, both cough and wheezing provided valid prediction. We conclude that pulmonary involvement is a common manifestation in Egyptian RA patients, and the pattern of involvement is generally consistent with other studies that were performed worldwide. Specific respiratory symptoms could be used as practical, easy, and cost-effective method, especially in older and with more severe RA patients, to discriminate patients in need of subsequent PFT and HRCT imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Cough / diagnostic imaging
  • Cough / etiology
  • Cough / physiopathology
  • Dyspnea / diagnostic imaging
  • Dyspnea / etiology
  • Dyspnea / physiopathology
  • Egypt
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Diseases / etiology
  • Lung Diseases / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antirheumatic Agents