Expert consensus on the management of systemic sclerosis-associated interstitial lung disease

Franck F. Rahaghi, Vivien M. Hsu, Robert J. Kaner, Maureen D. Mayes, Ivan O. Rosas, Rajan Saggar, Virginia D. Steen, Mary E. Strek, Elana J. Bernstein, Nitin Bhatt, Flavia V. Castelino, Lorinda Chung, Robyn T. Domsic, Kevin R. Flaherty, Nishant Gupta, Bashar Kahaleh, Fernando J. Martinez, Lee E. Morrow, Teng Moua, Nina PatelOksana A. Shlobin, Brian D. Southern, Elizabeth R. Volkmann, Dinesh Khanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a rare, complex, connective tissue disorder. Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is common in SSc, occurring in 35–52% of patients and accounting for 20–40% of mortality. Evolution of therapeutic options has resulted in a lack of consensus on how to manage this condition. This Delphi study was initiated to develop consensus recommendations based on expert physician insights regarding screening, progression, treatment criteria, monitoring of response, and the role of recent therapeutic advances with antifibrotics and immunosuppressants in patients with SSc-ILD. Methods: A modified Delphi process was completed by pulmonologists (n = 13) and rheumatologists (n = 12) with expertise in the management of patients with SSc-ILD. Panelists rated their agreement with each statement on a Likert scale from − 5 (complete disagreement) to + 5 (complete agreement). Consensus was predefined as a mean Likert scale score of ≤ − 2.5 or ≥ + 2.5 with a standard deviation not crossing zero. Results: Panelists recommended that all patients with SSc be screened for ILD by chest auscultation, spirometry with diffusing capacity of the lungs for carbon monoxide, high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT), and/or autoantibody testing. Treatment decisions were influenced by baseline and changes in pulmonary function tests, extent of ILD on HRCT, duration and degree of dyspnea, presence of pulmonary hypertension, and potential contribution of reflux. Treatment success was defined as stabilization or improvement of signs or symptoms of ILD and functional status. Mycophenolate mofetil was identified as the initial treatment of choice. Experts considered nintedanib a therapeutic option in patients with progressive fibrotic ILD despite immunosuppressive therapy or patients contraindicated/unable to tolerate immunotherapy. Concomitant use of nintedanib with MMF/cyclophosphamide can be considered in patients with advanced disease at initial presentation, aggressive ILD, or significant disease progression. Although limited consensus was achieved on the use of tocilizumab, the experts considered it a therapeutic option for patients with early SSc and ILD with elevated acute-phase reactants. Conclusions: This modified Delphi study generated consensus recommendations for management of patients with SSc-ILD in a real-world setting. Findings from this study provide a management algorithm that will be helpful for treating patients with SSc-ILD and addresses a significant unmet need.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalRespiratory Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Algorithms
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Connective tissue diseases
  • Drug therapy
  • Pulmonary fibrosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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