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BACKGROUND - Early diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension (PH) in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) has potential prognostic and therapeutic implications but can be difficult due to the lack of specific clinical manifestations or accurate non-invasive tests. Histopathologic parameters correlating with PH in IPF are also not known. Remodeling of postcapillary pulmonary vessels has been reported in the nonfibrotic areas of explanted lungs from IPF patients. We hypothesized that iron deposition and increased alveolar capillaries, the findings often seen in postcapillary PH, might predict the presence of clinical PH, independent of the severity of fibrosis or ventilatory dysfunction in IPF patients. To test this hypothesis, we examined the association between these histologic parameters and the degree of PH, with consideration of the severity of disease in IPF.
METHODS - Iron deposition and alveolar septal capillary density (ASCD) were evaluated on histologic sections with hematoxylin-eosin, iron, elastin and CD34 stainings. Percentage of predicted forced vital capacity (FVC%) was used for grading pulmonary function status. Fibrosis score assessed on high resolution computed tomography (HRCT) was used for evaluating overall degree of fibrosis in whole lungs. Right ventricular systolic pressure (RVSP) by transthoracic echocardiography was used for the estimation of PH. Univariate and multivariate regression analyses were performed.
RESULTS - A cohort of 154 patients was studied who had the clinicopathological diagnosis of IPF with surgical lung biopsies or explants during the period of 1997 to 2006 at Mayo Clinic Rochester. In univariate analysis, RVSP in our IPF cases was associated with both iron deposition and ASCD (p < 0.001). In multivariate analysis with FVC% and HRCT fibrosis score included, iron deposition (p = 0.02), but not ASCD (p = 0.076), maintained statistically significant association with RVSP. FVC% was associated with RVSP on univariate analysis but not on multivariate analysis, while fibrosis score lacked any association with RVSP by either univariate or multivariate analyses.
CONCLUSIONS - Iron deposition and ASCD in non fibrotic lung tissue showed an association with RVSP, suggesting that these features are possible morphologic predictors of PH in IPF.