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Possible connection between gastroesophageal reflux and interstitial pulmonary fibrosis in patients with systemic sclerosis

Posted Feb 02 2010 12:00am

Interstitial lung disease represents the main cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with systemic sclerosis. The mechanisms leading to interstitial lung disease are poorly understood and thus current strategies have little effect on this progressive and fatal disease. Therefore, it appears relevant the importance to assess the possible risk factors involved in its pathogenesis.

Previous studies in vivo and in vitro suggested that pulmonary fibrosis can occur after repeated aspiration of small amounts of gastric contents over long periods of time. Recently, our group observed that patients with systemic sclerosis and pulmonary fibrosis have a more severe degree of gastroesophageal reflux with a greater number of reflux events and a higher percentage of reflux episodes reaching the proximal esophagus, causing an increasing risk of microaspiration, compared to patients with systemic sclerosis without lung involvement.

Further larger controlled studies are necessary to evaluate whether or not the development of interstitial lung disease in systemic sclerosis patients can be prevented by treating gastroesophageal reflux.

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