Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Manifestations of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Curr Rheumatol Rev. 2017;13(3):206-218. doi: 10.2174/1573397113666170704102444.


Background: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is characterized by various clinical manifestations and immunologic abnormalities. Cardiovascular and respiratory system involvement are increasingly recognized as critical for patients' prognosis. In this review, current knowledge concerning diagnosis, pathogenesis and treatment of the cardiac and pulmonary lupus manifestations are discussed.

Method: Review of the literature.

Results: Although pericarditis is the most frequent heart manifestation in the context of lupus, valvular disease and less often myocarditis may be detected. In the latter, treatment should be prompt and aggressive to prevent chronic sequelae like congestive heart failure. Later on disease course, accelerated atherosclerosis is considered as one of the most important co-morbidities of SLE with cardiovascular events being one of the leading causes of death at relatively young ages. Stratification of the patients at risk and stringent management of the traditional risk factors are warranted. Respiratory system involvement affects all anatomic structures of the lungs, pleura and pulmonary vasculature while its severity ranges from asymptomatic pleural disease to acute respiratory failure. The most common features include pleuritis, interstitial lung disease and pulmonary embolism on the background of antiphospholipid syndrome. Less usual complications include lupus pneumonitis, diffuse alveolar hemorrhage, shrinking lung syndrome and pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Conclusion: There are no specific guidelines for the management of these manifestations and therapeutic approach remains empiric.

Keywords: Systemic lupus erythematosus; cardiovascular; pulmonary manifestations; tuberculosis; uremic; viral.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / etiology*
  • Lung Diseases / pathology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / complications*
  • Male