Importance: Interstitial lung abnormalities have been associated with lower 6-minute walk distance, diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide, and total lung capacity. However, to our knowledge, an association with mortality has not been previously investigated.
Objective: To investigate whether interstitial lung abnormalities are associated with increased mortality.
Design, setting, and population: Prospective cohort studies of 2633 participants from the FHS (Framingham Heart Study; computed tomographic [CT] scans obtained September 2008-March 2011), 5320 from the AGES-Reykjavik Study (Age Gene/Environment Susceptibility; recruited January 2002-February 2006), 2068 from the COPDGene Study (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease; recruited November 2007-April 2010), and 1670 from ECLIPSE (Evaluation of COPD Longitudinally to Identify Predictive Surrogate Endpoints; between December 2005-December 2006).
Exposures: Interstitial lung abnormality status as determined by chest CT evaluation.
Main outcomes and measures: All-cause mortality over an approximate 3- to 9-year median follow-up time. Cause-of-death information was also examined in the AGES-Reykjavik cohort.
Results: Interstitial lung abnormalities were present in 177 (7%) of the 2633 participants from FHS, 378 (7%) of 5320 from AGES-Reykjavik, 156 (8%) of 2068 from COPDGene, and in 157 (9%) of 1670 from ECLIPSE. Over median follow-up times of approximately 3 to 9 years, there were more deaths (and a greater absolute rate of mortality) among participants with interstitial lung abnormalities when compared with those who did not have interstitial lung abnormalities in the following cohorts: 7% vs 1% in FHS (6% difference [95% CI, 2% to 10%]), 56% vs 33% in AGES-Reykjavik (23% difference [95% CI, 18% to 28%]), and 11% vs 5% in ECLIPSE (6% difference [95% CI, 1% to 11%]). After adjustment for covariates, interstitial lung abnormalities were associated with a higher risk of death in the FHS (hazard ratio [HR], 2.7 [95% CI, 1.1 to 6.5]; P = .03), AGES-Reykjavik (HR, 1.3 [95% CI, 1.2 to 1.4]; P < .001), COPDGene (HR, 1.8 [95% CI, 1.1 to 2.8]; P = .01), and ECLIPSE (HR, 1.4 [95% CI, 1.1 to 2.0]; P = .02) cohorts. In the AGES-Reykjavik cohort, the higher rate of mortality could be explained by a higher rate of death due to respiratory disease, specifically pulmonary fibrosis.
Conclusions and relevance: In 4 separate research cohorts, interstitial lung abnormalities were associated with a greater risk of all-cause mortality. The clinical implications of this association require further investigation.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00292552.