Pleuropulmonary pathology in patients with rheumatic disease

Frank Schneider, James Gruden, Henry D. Tazelaar, Kevin O. Leslie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Thoracic manifestations of rheumatic disease (RD) are increasingly recognized as a significant cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Rheumatologic underpinnings have been identified in a significant proportion of patients with interstitial lung disease. The 5 RDs most frequently associated with pleuropulmonary disease are (1) rheumatoid arthritis, (2) systemic lupus erythematosus, (3) progressive systemic sclerosis, (4) polymyositis/ dermatomyositis, and (5) Sj ̈ogren syndrome. The onset of thoracic involvement in these diseases is variable. In some patients, it precedes the systemic disease or is its only manifestation. Moreover, there is a wide spectrum of clinical presentation ranging from subclinical abnormalities to acute respiratory failure. Histopathologically, the hallmark features of thoracic involvement by RD are inflammatory, targeting one or more lung compartments. The reactions range from acute to chronic, with remodeling by fibrosis being a common result. Although the inflammatory findings are often nonspecific, certain reactions or anatomic distributions may favor one RD over another, and occasionally, a distinctive histopathology may be present (eg, rheumatoid nodules). Three diagnostic dilemmas are encountered in patients with RD who develop diffuse lung disease: 1) opportunistic infection in the immunocompromised host, 2) drug toxicity related to the medications used to treat the systemic disease, and 3) manifestations of the patient's known systemic disease in lung and pleura. To confidently address the latter, the 5 major RDs are presented here, with their most common pleuropulmonary pathologic manifestations, accompanied by brief clinical and radiologic correlations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1242-1252
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


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