Characterisation of severe obliterative bronchiolitis in rheumatoid arthritis

G. Devouassoux, Vincent Cottin, H. Liote, E. Marchand, I. Fraction, A. Schuller, F. Bejui-Thivolet, Jean François Cordier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The characteristics of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who develop obliterative bronchiolitis characterised by severe airflow obstruction have been hitherto poorly investigated. A retrospective study of 25 patients with RA and functional evidence of obliterative bronchiolitis (forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1)/forced vital capacity (FVC) 50% and/or residual volume (RV)/total lung capacity (TLC).140% predicted) was conducted. Patients (mean + SD age 64 + 11 yrs) included 17 never-smokers and eight ex-smokers (10.5 + 5.4 pack-yrs). The diagnosis of RA preceded respiratory symptoms in 88% of cases. Dyspnoea on exertion was present in all patients and bronchorrhea in 44%. High-resolution computed tomography findings included: bronchial wall thickening (96%), bronchiectasis (40%), mosaic pattern (40%), centrilobular emphysema (56%), and reticular and/or ground-glass opacities (32%). Pulmonary function tests showed: FEV1 41+12% pred, FEV1/FVC 49 + 14%, FVC 70+ 20% pred, RV 148+ 68% pred and RV/TLC 142+ 34% pred. Lung biopsy, available in nine patients, demonstrated constrictive, follicular and mixed bronchiolitis. Patients were followed for 48.2+ 49 months. Treatment was poorly effective. Chronic respiratory failure occurred in 40% of patients, and four patients died. Obliterative bronchiolitis associated with rheumatoid arthritis is a severe and under-recognised condition leading to respiratory failure and death in a high proportion of patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1053-1061
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean respiratory journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Airflow obstruction
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Emphysema
  • Obliterative bronchiolitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Small airways disease


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