Dyspnoea in lupus

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A 32-year-old woman suffering from systemic lupus erythematosus presented with a 6-week history of progressive dyspnoea and pleuritic chest pain. Examination was normal apart from reduced air entry at the lung bases.

Arterial blood gases showed hypoxaemia and chest X-ray revealed raised hemidiaphragms without any pleural effusions. Lung function showed a restrictive pathology while high-resolution chest CT and CT pulmonary angiogram were negative. Echocardiography showed normal ventricular diameters and no pericardial effusion. Reduced lung volumes and a positive fluoroscopic sniff test lead to a diagnosis of shrinking lung syndrome. Symptoms improved following treatment with glucocorticoids and non-invasive ventilation, but there was no change in lung function.

A year later, our patient presented again with worsening dyspnoea. This time echocardiography revealed severe mitral stenosis with pulmonary hypertension. Mitral valve replacement was performed and dyspnoea resolved. Histology showed Libman-Sachs endocarditis.

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