The fractional exhaled concentration of nitric oxide (FENO) has been shown to be reduced in idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) but has not been adequately studied in PAH associated with systemic sclerosis (SSc). We measured FENO at an expiratory flow rate of 50 mL/s in 21 treatment-naive patients with SSc-associated PAH (SSc-PAH), 94 subjects with SSc without pulmonary involvement, and 84 healthy volunteers. Measurements of FENO at additional flow rates of 100, 150, and 250 mL/s were obtained to derive the flow-independent nitric oxide exchange parameters of maximal airway flux (J'awNO) and steady-state alveolar concentration (CANO). FENO at 50 mL/s was similar (P = 0.22) in the SSc-PAH group (19 ± 12 parts per billion [ppb]) compared with the SSc group (17 ± 12 ppb) and healthy control group (21 ± 11 ppb). No change was observed after 4 months of targeted PAH therapy in 14 SSc-PAH group patients (P = 0.9). J'awNO was modestly reduced in SSc group subjects without lung disease (1.2 ± 0.5 nl/s) compared with healthy controls (1.64 ± 0.9; P < 0.05) but was similar to that in the SSc-PAH group. CANO was elevated in individuals with SSc-PAH (4.8 ± 2.6 ppb) compared with controls with SSc (3.3 ± 1.4 ppb) and healthy subjects (2.6 ± 1.5 ppb; P < 0.001 for both). However, after adjustment for the diffusing capacity of CO, there was no significant difference in CANO between individuals with SSc-PAH and controls with SSc. We conclude that FENO is not useful for the diagnosis of PAH in SSc. Increased alveolar nitric oxide in SSc-PAH likely represents impaired diffusion into pulmonary capillary blood.
Keywords: exhaled nitric oxide; pulmonary arterial hypertension; scleroderma; systemic sclerosis.