Screening for pulmonary arterial hypertension in patients with scleroderma—a New Zealand perspective

Sanjib K Ghosh, Michael M Corkill, Hamish H Hart, Kristine P Ng
New Zealand Medical Journal 2014 August 15, 127 (1400): 30-8

BACKGROUND: Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) in scleroderma (SSc) patients is a devastating complication with high mortality if untreated. Early recognition and specific treatment of PAH may improve outcome. Regular interval screening for PAH is generally recommended in scleroderma patients especially with the availability of emerging new therapies. The aim of this study is to determine the self-reported screening and treatment practices for SSc-PAH amongst rheumatologists in New Zealand (NZ).

METHODS: An anonymous online questionnaire survey was emailed to all rheumatologists in New Zealand.

RESULTS: Responses were received from 65% (39/60) of rheumatologists. The majority of patients had limited SSc (lcSSc) (57%) versus diffuse SSc (dcSSc) (34%). Twelve percent of patients had PAH. Eighty-two percent of rheumatologists screened for PAH in all SSc patients regardless of symptoms. The most commonly used screening modalities were pulmonary function tests (PFT) (97%) followed by clinical examination (95%) and echocardiogram (TTE) (92%). The majority of rheumatologists performed screening tests on a yearly basis (80% used PFT and 64% used TTE). A right heart catheter was used to confirm PAH in 70% of patients. Sixty-four percent of rheumatologists extend screening interval time if their patients were clinically stable. The most common PAH-specific therapy used was sildenafil (57%) followed by bosentan (19%). Sixty-four percent of rheumatologists supported a national PAH-SSc screening guideline.

CONCLUSION: This study has shown a wide variability of how NZ rheumatologists screen for PAH in scleroderma patients. The development of a PAH-SSc guideline for screening and diagnosis may help standardise treatment practices in NZ.

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