To document the prevalence and progression of pulmonary involvement in scleroderma (systemic sclerosis including the CREST syndrome), the clinical notes and lung function records of 113 cases were reviewed. Lung function was normal in 39 cases, isolated impairment of DLCO was found in 38 patients, a restrictive defect was present in 27 cases and there was evidence of airflow obstruction in 9 cases. The median duration of symptoms was 10 years. Dyspnoea and an interstitial pattern on chest X-ray were associated with impaired lung function. Death during the period of review was significantly related to initial impairment of the DLCO. Sixty-six patients (53 women and 13 men) underwent repeat spirometry at least 1 year after initial testing. The rates of change in VC and FEV1 were no more rapid than would be expected for normal subjects. There was no significant difference in rates of change between men and women or between dyspnoeic patients and those who were asymptomatic. The extent of skin involvement and the presence of interstitial fibrosis on chest X-ray were unrelated to the rate of loss of lung function. It is concluded that most scleroderma patients in this study had abnormal lung function when first tested, but overall significant worsening of spirometry was not found.
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