Pulmonary vasospasm in systemic sclerosis: noninvasive techniques for detection

PVRI Member Authors: John Wort


In a subgroup of patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc), vasospasm affecting the pulmonary circulation may contribute to worsening respiratory symptoms, including dyspnea. Noninvasive assessment of pulmonary blood flow (PBF), utilizing inert-gas rebreathing (IGR) and dual-energy computed-tomography pulmonary angiography (DE-CTPA), may be useful for identifying pulmonary vasospasm. Thirty-one participants (22 SSc patients and 9 healthy volunteers) underwent PBF assessment with IGR and DE-CTPA at baseline and after provocation with a cold-air inhalation challenge (CACh). Before the study investigations, participants were assigned to subgroups: group A included SSc patients who reported increased breathlessness after exposure to cold air (n = 11), group B included SSc patients without cold-air sensitivity (n = 11), and group C patients included the healthy volunteers. Median change in PBF from baseline was compared between groups A, B, and C after CACh. Compared with groups B and C, in group A there was a significant decline in median PBF from baseline at 10 minutes (−10%; range: −52.2% to 4.0%; P < 0.01), 20 minutes (−17.4%; −27.9% to 0.0%; P < 0.01), and 30 minutes (−8.5%; −34.4% to 2.0%; P < 0.01) after CACh. There was no significant difference in median PBF change between groups B or C at any time point and no change in pulmonary perfusion on DE-CTPA. Reduction in pulmonary blood flow following CACh suggests that pulmonary vasospasm may be present in a subgroup of patients with SSc and may contribute to worsening dyspnea on exposure to cold.

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Health Education/ Disease Prevention/ Patient Education
Pulmonary Circulation


Gregory J. Keir, Arjun Nair, Stamatia Giannarou, Guang-Zhong Yang, Paul Oldershaw, S. John Wort, Peter MacDonald, David M. Hansell, Athol U. Wells

Published in:

Pulmonary Circulation Vol 5: No 3 cover image

September 2015

Pulmonary Circulation Vol 5: No 3

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