Study objectives: To investigate whether age at disease onset is a risk factor for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) in scleroderma.
Setting: Scleroderma center.
Patients: Seven hundred nine consecutive scleroderma patients who underwent echocardiography.
Measurements: The risk of PAH associated with age at disease onset was modeled as both a continuous and categorical variable. Risk estimates were adjusted for sex, race, scleroderma subtype, disease duration, smoking status, FVC, anticentromere and antitopoisomerase I antibody status.
Results: Overall, 274 patients (38.6%), 272 patients by Doppler echocardiography and 2 patients by M-mode echocardiography, had PAH at baseline or during follow-up. There were 114 patients with mild PAH (right ventricular systolic pressure [RVSP], 36 to 45 mm Hg), 66 patients with moderate PAH (RVSP, 46 to 55 mm Hg), and 92 patients with severe PAH (RVSP ≥ 56 mm Hg). A 52% increase in risk of PAH was demonstrated for every 10 years of age at disease onset (odds ratio [OR], 1.52; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.31 to 1.76). In addition, there was a twofold greater risk of PAH (OR, 2.30; 95% CI, 1.32 to 3.99) for late-onset (age ≥ 60 years) vs earlier-onset (< 60 years) disease. These associations remained evident and were somewhat strengthened when the analyses were restricted to patients with moderate and severe PAH.
Conclusions: We identified increasing age at scleroderma onset as a risk factor for PAH. Vigilance among these high-risk patients may provide an opportunity to intervene prior to development of irreversible pulmonary vascular disease.