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Eur Respir J. 2011 Jul;38(1):184-90. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00010910. Epub 2010 Oct 28.

Increased epithelial permeability in pulmonary fibrosis in relation to disease progression.

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Royal Brompton Hospital and National Heart and Lung Institute, London, UK.


Epithelial injury contributes to pathogenesis in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) but its role in the interstitial lung disease (ILD) of systemic sclerosis (SSc) is uncertain. We quantified the prognostic significance of inhaled technetium-99m ((99m)Tc)-labelled diethylene triamine pentacetate (DTPA) pulmonary clearance, a marker of the extent of epithelial injury, in both diseases. Baseline (99m)Tc-DTPA pulmonary clearance was evaluated retrospectively in patients with SSc-ILD (n = 168) and IPF (n = 97) against mortality and disease progression. In SSc-ILD, the rapidity of total clearance (hazard ratio (HR) 1.02, 95% CI 1.01-1.03; p = 0.001) and the presence of abnormally rapid clearance (HR 2.10; 95% CI 1.25-3.53; p = 0.005) predicted a shorter time to forced vital capcity (FVC) decline, independent of disease severity. These associations were robust in both mild and severe disease. By contrast, in IPF, delayed clearance of the slow component, an expected consequence of honeycomb change, was an independent predictor of a shorter time to FVC decline (HR 1.01, 95% CI 1.00-1.02; p<0.01). Epithelial injury should be incorporated in pathogenetic models in SSc-ILD. By contrast, outcome is not linked to the overall extent of epithelial injury in IPF, apart from abnormalities ascribable to honeycombing, suggesting that core pathogenetic events may be more spatially focal in that disease.

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