Bronchiectasis. A late feature of severe rheumatoid arthritis

Medicine (Baltimore). 1994 May;73(3):161-70.


Bronchiectasis as a feature of rheumatoid arthritis is considered rare and, in most series, has preceded rheumatoid arthritis. We identified 23 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and bronchiectasis at the Brigham and Women's Hospital followed between 1984 and 1991, 18 of whom had arthritis preceding lung disease. The 18 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and subsequent bronchiectasis had a mean age of 63.8 years. Fourteen were women and 4 were men, with a mean arthritis duration of 24.7 years before bronchiectasis developed. Most patients had seropositive and nodular disease. All but 1 had advanced radiographic changes of rheumatoid arthritis, and many had received joint replacement surgery. In addition to standard treatment regimens, 17 patients had received corticosteroids. Productive cough, hemoptysis, and dyspnea were the most common respiratory symptoms and were present for an average of 4.3 years prior to bronchiectasis diagnosis. The most common radiographic abnormalities were bibasilar diffusely increased interstitial markings and focal infiltrates, although nodules, bullae, cysts, and air-fluid levels were found. Common pulmonary-function abnormalities were obstructive and/or restrictive abnormalities. Three patients died of complications relating to bronchiectasis. Five patients with rheumatoid arthritis had antecedent bronchiectasis. Compared with patients with rheumatoid arthritis and subsequent bronchiectasis, those with antecedent lung disease had milder arthritis (stage I or II radiographic changes, p < 0.001), a lower frequency of rheumatoid nodules (p < 0.05) and a lower comorbidity score (5.8 versus 9.4, p < 0.01). They also had received fewer disease-modifying agents for the treatment of their rheumatoid arthritis. Bronchiectasis can be a feature of rheumatoid arthritis and is often found in patients with severe, long-standing nodular disease. Recurrent pulmonary infections and respiratory failure occur and may be fatal.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / epidemiology
  • Bronchiectasis / diagnosis*
  • Bronchiectasis / epidemiology
  • Bronchiectasis / pathology
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Haemophilus influenzae / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pseudomonas / isolation & purification
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sputum / microbiology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents