Objective: To determine the circumstances, the clinical features and the outcome of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-free patients with connective tissue diseases (CTD).
Methods: Retrospective analysis of all cases referred 10 medical units in the last 10 years.
Results: A total of 34 cases of PCP in patients with CTD were studied (Wegener's granulomatosis, n = 12; systemic lupus erythematosus, n = 6; polyarteritis nodosa, n = 4; poly/dermatomyositis, n = 5; others, n = 7). The majority of patients (25/34 patients; 74%) presented PCP during the first 8 months following the diagnosis of CTD. At the time of diagnosis of PCP, most patients (32/34; 94%) were receiving corticosteroids (mean prednisone equivalent dose: 1.2 mg/kg/day) associated in 24 cases with cytotoxic agents (cyclophosphamide, n = 19; methotrexate, n = 5). Most patients were lymphocytopenic at the onset of PCP: 91% (31/34) of patients had fewer than 1.5 x 10(9)/l circulating lymphocytes and 76% (26/34) had fewer than 0.8 x 10(9)/l. The mean duration of prodromal symptoms was 6 days: this is much shorter than for AIDS associated PCP. Half the patients required intensive care for respiratory failure. Mortality was high (11/34 patients; 32%) although deaths were partly due to infections acquired in intensive care units. Among the 23 survivors, 10 (43%) received secondary prophylaxis for PCP and 13 (57%), received the usual therapeutic regimen. No relapse has been observed in either group with a mean followup of 22 months.
Conclusion: Although rare, PCP must be considered in patients with any type of CTD and receiving cytotoxic agents and corticosteroids, particularly if they are lymphocytopenic. Thus, bronchoalveolar lavage must be rapidly performed in patients with CTD presenting with fever, pulmonary infiltrates, hypoxemia and lymphopenia.