Methotrexate pulmonary toxicity

G W Cannon
Rheumatic Diseases Clinics of North America 1997, 23 (4): 917-37
Drug-induced pulmonary disease is a well-recognized complication of MTX treatment of rheumatic diseases. Physicians involved in the management of patients receiving MTX should be aware of this potentially life-threatening complication. The prompt evaluation of new pulmonary symptoms in patients receiving MTX is important in the early recognition of this drug-induced complication. The characteristic symptoms are shortness of breath, nonproductive cough, fatigue, and fever. If an MTX-induced pulmonary reaction is suspected and abnormalities are noted on lung examination, chest radiography should be performed. In the presence of an abnormal chest radiograph, MTX should be discontinued, supportive measures instituted, and the diagnosis of the patient's pulmonary complaints investigated by specifically looking for features of the underlying rheumatic process, infection, and other medical conditions. Patients with severe pulmonary compromise should be hospitalized and given supplemental oxygen and high-dose corticosteroids. Most patients recover from their illness. No risk factors have been identified that consistently identify patients at the greatest risk for MTX-induced pulmonary toxicity. All patients receiving MTX should be educated concerning this potentially life-threatening drug toxicity and instructed to contact their physician immediately if significant pulmonary symptoms develop.

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