Objective: To evaluate the prevalence of symptomatic bronchiectasis in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Methods: Cross-sectional retrospective study of 453 rheumatoid arthritis patients. All patients completed a questionnaire designed to detect manifestations of bronchiectasis and had a chest film taken. Computed tomography of the chest was performed in those patients whose chest film was normal.
Results: Thirteen patients (2.9%), all female, had symptoms that met Walker's criteria for definite (n = 7) or probable (n = 6) bronchiectasis. Symptom onset was during childhood or adolescence in 69% of cases and antedated the first symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in all patients but one. Six of the 13 patients (46%) had chest film abnormalities suggestive of bronchiectasis, and three of the remaining seven patients had abnormal computed tomography findings, yielding a total of nine cases of bronchiectasis confirmed by imaging studies among the 13 patients with suggestive symptoms (69%). This proportion rose to 90% when the three patients who failed to come to their computed tomography appointment were excluded.
Conclusion: Using a methodological approach similar to that previously used by pneumologists, we found a 2.9% prevalence of symptomatic bronchiectasis in a population of hospitalized rheumatoid arthritis patients, which is higher than the 0.03% prevalence previously reported in the population at large.