Pulmonary arterial hypertension related to scleroderma (PAH-Scl) is associated with high morbidity and mortality as well as poorer response to therapy and worse outcomes compared with the idiopathic form of PAH (IPAH). Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that can affect left and right heart function directly through inflammation and fibrosis and indirectly through systemic and pulmonary hypertension. This study tested the hypothesis that an increased prevalence of left heart disease might explain the higher mortality in patients with PAH-Scl compared with patients with IPAH.
The study was designed as a retrospective cohort study comparing the baseline clinical data from 91 consecutive patients (41 with IPAH and 50 with PAH-Scl). Cox proportional hazards models were used to predict the effect of clinical covariates on patient survival.
Patients with PAH-Scl had a lower mean pulmonary artery pressure (46.6 mm Hg versus 54.4 mm Hg in patients with IPAH; P = 0.002) despite similar levels of cardiac dysfunction (cardiac index 2.2 and 2.1 liters/minute/m2, respectively; P = 0.19). Echocardiography revealed similar degrees of right ventricular dysfunction in the 2 groups, whereas a predominance of left heart dysfunction was observed in patients with PAH-Scl. One- and three-year survival estimates were 87.8% and 48.9%, respectively, in patients with PAH-Scl and 95.1% and 83.6%, respectively, in those with IPAH. Patients with PAH-Scl were 3.06 times more likely to die than were patients with IPAH, after controlling for the presence of pericardial effusion; there was no significant change in increased risk of death in PAH-Scl after controlling for left heart disease.
The results confirm that there are significant clinical and survival differences between IPAH and PAH-Scl. The presence of left heart disease, although more common in PAH-Scl, was not predictive of the higher mortality in these patients.