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QJM. 2002 Oct;95(10):655-62.

Common variable immune deficiency: respiratory manifestations, pulmonary function and high-resolution CT scan findings.

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  • 1Adult Cystic Fibrosis Unit, Department of Respiratory Medicine, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham, UK.



Common variable immune deficiency (CVID) is prone to under-diagnosis and may not reach relevant specialists until late in life. Morbidity is most commonly due to acute-on-chronic respiratory infections leading to respiratory failure.


To investigate respiratory complications, lung function and high-resolution computerized tomography scan (HRCT) findings and mortality in 47 patients with CVID.


A regional immunology unit (Birmingham Heartlands Hospital).


Retrospective observational case-note study following the introduction of shared care between immunology and respiratory medicine.


Age at diagnosis ranged from 5 to 72 years, with a median time from development of first symptoms to diagnosis of 4.0 years. There was delay in referral between chest physicians and immunologists, (median referral time between specialities >5 years). Forty-two patients had respiratory complications, due to bronchiectasis (n=32), asthma (n=7), recurrent chest infections (n=9) without concomitant evidence of structural lung damage, and granulomatous lung disease (n=2). Spirometry was abnormal in 10/39 patients (7 obstructive, 3 restrictive). Bronchiectasis was confirmed on chest radiograph (n=9) and HRCT (n=24). Despite the high prevalence of bronchiectasis, few patients had received instruction in physiotherapy and sputum culture results were sparse.


To reduce the morbidity associated with CVID, there needs to be greater awareness of respiratory complications, particularly amongst physicians caring for such patients. Emphasis has been placed on adequate dosage of immunoglobulin, but early involvement by a respiratory physician is essential to monitor lung function and initiate optimal therapy, to minimize the occurrence and progression of lung damage.

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