Quantitative chest CT analysis in patients with systemic sclerosis before and after autologous stem cell transplantation: comparison of results with those of pulmonary function tests and clinical tests

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Objectives. The aim of this study was to evaluate the course of SSc-related pulmonary abnormalities following high-dose chemotherapy with autologous stem cell transplantation (SCT) by quantitative chest CT analysis and compare the results with those of pulmonary function tests and the response of cutaneous involvement.

Methods. Chest CT quantification was performed before, directly after [0.49 years (S.D. 0.20)] and at a mean of 2.2 years (S.D. 2.1) following autologous SCT in 26 consecutive patients with SSc between March 2001 and March 2015. Quantitative CT used fully automated software to calculate inspiratory total lung volume, mean lung density, high attenuation value and their pulmonary distribution (core vs peel). All patients underwent pulmonary function tests. We additionally analysed parallels in the response of associated skin changes by using the modified Rodnan skin score (mRSS).

Results. The forced vital capacity (FVC) course at 6 months was used to classify patients into responders [n = 20 (76.9%)] and non-responders [n = 6 (23.1%)]. FVC, forced expiratory volume in 1 s, vital capacity (VC) as well as single-breath diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide significantly improved (P = 0.03, 0.001, 0.001 and 0.013, respectively) in responders. At quantitative CT, total lung volume increased (P = 0.018), whereas mean lung density (P = 0.026) and high attenuation value decreased (P = 0.020) after autologous SCT in responders. Correspondingly, mRSS improved from 27.35 (S.D. 9.25) before to 10.81 (S.D. 8.64) after autologous SCT (P = 0.003) in responders. Changes in mRSS before autologous SCT and thereafter correlated significantly with those 24 months after autologous SCT (r = 0.575; P = 0.031).

Conclusions. CT quantification of lung volume and parenchymal attenuation in SSc patients presenting with alveolitis and fibrosis that undergo autologous SCT yields parameters that match well with those of pulmonary function and even clinical tests. It might therefore be used as a substitute marker in patients who are unable to adequately perform lung function tests.

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