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Scleroderma lung disease, variation in screening, diagnosis and treatment practices between rheumatologists and respiratory physicians

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Abstract Background: 

Interstitial lung disease (ILD) and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) represent the leading causes of death in systemic sclerosis (SSc). Screening for these complications has assumed greater importance, but is not universal. The aim of this study is to determine the self-reported screening, diagnosis and treatment practices of rheumatologists and respiratory physicians for SSc-related lung disease. Methods: 

Email survey of 270 rheumatologists and 600 respiratory physicians. Results: 

Responses were received from 42 (16%) rheumatologists and 68 (11%) respiratory physicians. Of SSc patients seen by rheumatologists, 17% had ILD and 7.5% had a diagnosis of PAH compared with 31% and 21% for respiratory physicians. Forty per cent of all physicians screened asymptomatic SSc patients without a known diagnosis of ILD or PAH less than annually or not at all. The most commonly used screening investigations were pulmonary function tests (PFT) (95%) and transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) (78%). In suspected ILD, both groups used high-resolution computed tomography scans and PFT in >90% of patients. In suspected PAH, both used TTE and PFT (>90%); right heart catheterisation was used by only 50% of physicians. In treatment of ILD, rheumatologists used intravenous (IV) cyclophosphamide more often (CYC) (59% vs 28%, P= 0.003) and more respiratory physicians used oral CYC (44% vs 28%, P= 0.012). In PAH, more respiratory physicians used warfarin (68% vs 40%, P= 0.006). Only approximately 65% of physicians had used specific PAH therapy, which may reflect lack of access to a designated PAH treatment centre. Conclusion: 

The heterogeneity of responses revealed in this study raises the importance of screening, diagnosis and treatment algorithms in the management of this potentially life-threatening disease.
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Keywords: diagnosis; hypertension; interstitial; lung diseases; pulmonary; scleroderma; systemic/complications; therapeutics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Rheumatology Unit, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia, 2: Respiratory Unit, St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, and 3: Advanced Lung Disease and Pulmonary Vascular Unit, Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Publication date: 2010-07-01

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