Identifying an inciting antigen is associated with improved survival in patients with chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis

Chest. 2013 Nov;144(5):1644-1651. doi: 10.1378/chest.12-2685.


Background: The cornerstone of hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) management is having patients avoid the inciting antigen (IA). Often, despite an exhaustive search, an IA cannot be found. The objective of this study was to examine whether identifying the IA impacts survival in patients with chronic HP.

Methods: We used the Kaplan-Meier method to display, and the log-rank test to compare, survival curves of patients with well-characterized chronic HP stratified on identification of an IA exposure. A Cox proportional hazards (PH) model was used to identify independent predictors in time-to-death analysis.

Results: Of 142 patients, 67 (47%) had an identified IA, and 75 (53%) had an unidentified IA. Compared with survivors, patients who died (n = 80, 56%) were older, more likely to have smoked, had lower total lung capacity % predicted and FVC % predicted, had higher severity of dyspnea, were more likely to have pulmonary fibrosis, and were less likely to have an identifiable IA. In a Cox PH model, the inability to identify an IA (hazard ratio [HR], 1.76; 95% CI, 1.01-3.07), older age (HR, 1.04; 95% CI, 1.01-1.07), the presences of pulmonary fibrosis (HR, 2.43; 95% CI, 1.36-4.35), a lower FVC% (HR, 1.36; 95% CI, 1.10-1.68), and a history of smoking (HR, 2.01; 95% C1, 1.15-3.50) were independent predictors of shorter survival. After adjusting for mean age, presence of fibrosis, mean FVC%, mean diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide (%), and history of smoking, survival was longer for patients with an identified IA exposure than those with an unidentified IA exposure (median, 8.75 years vs 4.88 years; P = .047).

Conclusions: Among patients with chronic HP, when adjusting for a number of potentially influential predictors, including the presence of fibrosis, the inability to identify an IA was independently associated with shortened survival.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alberta / epidemiology
  • Alveolitis, Extrinsic Allergic / immunology*
  • Alveolitis, Extrinsic Allergic / mortality
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / analysis*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / immunology
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate / trends
  • Time Factors


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II