Pulmonary Vasculitis in the Intensive Care Unit

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Pulmonary vasculitis can occur in apparent isolation, as part of a primary systemic vasculitis, or with an underlying systemic inflammatory autoimmune disorder. The presentation of pulmonary vasculitis in the intensive care unit (ICU) can be fulminant and will often overlap with more common disorders that affect the critically ill. Although diffuse alveolar hemorrhage (DAH) is the clinical feature that often initiates the concern for an underlying vasculitis, hemoptysis may not be apparent or its presentation can be mistaken for an alternative disease process. As a result, the diagnosis of pulmonary vasculitis in the ICU may be delayed or be completely unrecognized. A high level of suspicion is essential to obtain a timely diagnosis and for effective therapies to be implemented. There have been significant advances this past decade in diagnostic strategies as well as in the therapeutic options for patients with pulmonary vasculitis. We review here the clinical presentations, diagnostic strategies, and treatment options of the critically ill patients presenting with pulmonary vasculitis. The reader is referred to other resources for a more comprehensive review of specific vasculitic entities.

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