Conference Coverage

Experts agree on routine lung disease screening in systemic sclerosis



– The first consensus recommendations for the identification and management of interstitial lung disease (ILD) in patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) place particular emphasis on routine screening in all systemic sclerosis patients for early detection, monitoring, and, when warranted, treatment, Anna-Maria Hoffmann-Vold, MD, PhD, reported at the European Congress of Rheumatology.

Dr. Anna-Maria Hoffmann-Vold, a rheumatology consultant with Oslo University Hospital, Norway

Dr. Anna-Maria Hoffmann-Vold

“Everyone with systemic sclerosis needs to be screened because this is the most important risk factor for ILD,” said Dr. Hoffmann-Vold, a clinical scientist in the division of rheumatology at the University of Oslo and head of scleroderma research at Oslo University Hospital.

Although the frequency of screening is not specified based on the opinion that this should be based on risk factors and other clinical characteristics, there was unanimous agreement that lung function tests do not represent an adequate screening tool or method for assessing ILD severity. Rather, the recommendations make clear that lung function studies are adjunctive to high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT).

“HRCT is the primary tool for evaluating ILD, but there was 100% agreement that assessment should include more than one measure, including lung function tests and clinical assessment,” Dr. Hoffmann-Vold reported.

There was a strong opinion that the numerous potential biomarkers described for ILD, although promising, are not yet ready for clinical use.

In developing these new recommendations, 95 potential statements were considered by the panel of 27 rheumatologists, pulmonologists, and others with experience in this field. A Delphi process was used for members of the panel to identify areas of agreement to produce consensus statements.

The result has been more than 50 statements issued in six major domains. These include statements on risk factors, appropriate methodology for diagnosis and severity assessment, when to initiate therapy, and when and how to initiate treatment escalation.

“We want to increase clinician awareness and provide standardized guidance for evaluating patients for the presence and medical management of ILD-SSc,” Dr. Hoffmann-Vold explained.

ILD occurs in about half of all patients with systemic sclerosis. Among these, approximately one out of three will experience lung disease progression. Although these high prevalence rates are well recognized and associated with high morbidity and mortality, Dr. Hoffmann-Vold said that there has been uncertainty about how to screen systemic sclerosis patients for ILD and what steps to take when it was found. It is this uncertainty that prompted the present initiative.

The consensus recommendations are an initial step to guide clinicians, but Dr. Hoffmann-Vold noted that the many statements are based on expert opinion, suggesting more studies are needed to compare strategies for objective severity grading and prediction of which patients are most at risk for ILD progression.

“There are still huge knowledge gaps we need to fill,” she stated. Still, she believes these recommendations represent progress in this field. While they are likely “to increase the standard of care” for those who develop ILD-SSc, they also have identified where to concentrate further research.

Dr. Hoffmann-Vold reported financial relationships with Actelion, Boehringer Ingelheim, and GlaxoSmithKline.

SOURCE: Hoffmann-Vold A-M et al. Ann Rheum Dis. Jun 2019;78(Suppl 2):104, Abstract OPO064, doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2019-eular.3225.

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