Increased risk of mortality in systemic sclerosis-associated pulmonary hypertension: a systemic review and meta-analysis

Anij Xiong Qingting Liu Jiaxun Zhong Yuzi Cao Qilang Xiang Ziyi Hu Shifeng Zhou Zhuoyao Song Huini Chen Yan Zhang Hongxu Cui Shiquan Shuai About the authors

Abstract

Background:

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a frequent complication of systemic sclerosis (SSc) and is currently one of the primary causes of death in patients with this disease. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the association between PH and mortality in patients with SSc to verify trends in mortality in patients with SSc-associated PH.

Methods:

We searched the PubMed and Embase databases for published studies on SSc-associated PH from inception to May 2021. All cohort studies in which mortality and/or survival for SSc-associated PH were reported were included in the analysis. The outcome parameters were pooled and analyzed using a random-effects model via generic inverse-variance weighting in conventional and cumulative meta-analysis.

Results:

The literature search identified 1161 citations, and the full texts of 54 studies were examined. Sixteen articles, with a total of 7857 patients with SSc and 1140 patients with SSc-associated PH, were included in the metaanalysis. Patients with SSc-associated PH had a higher pooled risk of mortality than patients with SSc without PH (risk ratio = 3.12; 95% confidence interval: [2.44, 3.98]).

Conclusions:

This meta-analysis revealed a higher mortality in patients with SSc-associated PH. PH was a significant predictor of death in patients with SSc. Thus, early diagnosis and treatment of PH are important in patients with SSc.

Keywords:
Systemic sclerosis; Pulmonary hypertension; Early diagnosis; Mortality; Meta-analysis

Key messages

  1. SSc patients with PH had an increased pooled mortality risk than SSc patients without PH.

  2. Early diagnosis and treatment of PH are important in patients with SSc.

Introduction

Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a multisystem disease characterized by fibrosis and excessive collagen deposition within the skin and internal organs, chronic inflammation, immune dysregulation, and microvascular endothelial dysfunction [ 11 Mukerjee D, St George D, Coleiro B, Knight C, Denton CP, Davar J, et al. Prevalence and outcome in systemic sclerosis associated pulmonary arterial hypertension: application of a registry approach. Ann Rheum Dis. 2003;62(11):1088–93. https://doi.org/10.1136/ard.62.11.1088.
https://doi.org/10.1136/ard.62.11.1088...
, 22 Herzog EL, Mathur A, Tager AM, Feghali-Bostwick C, Schneider F, Varga J. Review: interstitial lung disease associated with systemic sclerosis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: how similar and distinct? Arthritis Rheumatol (Hoboken, NJ). 2014;66(8):1967–78. https://doi.org/10.1002/art38702.
https://doi.org/10.1002/art38702...
]. SSc is associated with high morbidity and mortality related to multiple organ complications. The risk of mortality is 4–5 times greater than that in an age- and sex-matched population [ 33 Silman AJ. Scleroderma–demographics and survival. J Rheumatol Suppl. 1997;48:58–61. ]. There have been changes in the pattern of death in the last decade after the introduction of new therapies, with an important reduction in the number of deaths related to kidney involvement, and currently, pulmonary fibrosis is the leading cause of death in SSc patients, followed by pulmonary hypertension (PH) [ 44 Steen VD, Medsger TA. Changes in causes of death in systemic sclerosis, 1972–2002. Ann Rheum Dis. 2007;66(7):940–4. https://doi.org/10.1136/ard.2006.066068.
https://doi.org/10.1136/ard.2006.066068...
]. Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is the most common cause of SSc- associated PH [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
]. In addition, myocardial fibrosis, left heart disease (LHD), interstitial lung disease (ILD), and pulmonary veno-occlusive (PVOD) are important causes of SSc-associated PH [ 66 Launay D, Sobanski V, Hachulla E, Humbert M. Pulmonary hypertension in systemic sclerosis: different phenotypes. Eur Respir Rev: Off J Eur Respir Soc. 2017;26(145):170056. https://doi.org/10.1183/16000617.0056-2017.
https://doi.org/10.1183/16000617.0056-20...
]. Furthermore, compared to PH from all connective tissue diseases, SSc-associated PH has the worst prognosis [ 77 Chung L, Farber HW, Benza R, Miller DP, Parsons L, Hassoun PM, et al. Unique predictors of mortality in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension associated with systemic sclerosis in the REVEAL registry. Chest. 2014;146(6):1494–504. https://doi.org/10.1378/chest.13-3014.
https://doi.org/10.1378/chest.13-3014...
].

Prior to this meta-analysis, numerous observational studies have highlighted that patients with SSc and PH are at a higher risk of death [ 88 Trad S, Amoura Z, Beigelman C, Haroche J, Costedoat N, le Boutin TH, et al. Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a major mortality factor in diffuse systemic sclerosis, independent of interstitial lung disease. Arthritis Rheum. 2006;54(1):184–91. https://doi.org/10.1002/art.21538.
https://doi.org/10.1002/art.21538...
1515 Noviani M, Saffari SE, Tan JL, Yip JWL, Teng GG, Law WG, et al. Mortality and hospitalization outcomes of interstitial lung disease and pulmonary hypertension in the Singapore systemic sclerosis cohort. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2020;50(3):473–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.2019.11.005.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.201...
]. However, owing to the small number of patients included, these observational studies had a low power for statistical analysis, resulting in lower reliability of these results. Because mortality is high in patients with SSc-associated PH, early diagnosis and treatment of PH may be important contributing factors for improved outcomes inpatients with SSc [ 1616 Tyndall AJ, Bannert B, Vonk M, Airò P, Cozzi F, Carreira PE, et al. Causes and risk factors for death in systemic sclerosis: a study from the EULAR Scleroderma Trials and Research (EUSTAR) database. Ann Rheum Dis. 2010;69(10):1809–15. https://doi.org/10.1136/ard.2009.114264.
https://doi.org/10.1136/ard.2009.114264...
]. Therefore, a large sample with a higher power for statistical analysis is crucial to determine whether PH represents an important risk factor for mortality. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies to assess the association between PH and mortality in patients with SSc.

Material and methods

This meta-analysis was conducted according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systemic Reviews and MetaAnalyses (PRISMA) statement protocol ( Additional file 1: Material S1) [ 1717 Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman DG. Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. PLoS Med. 2009;6(7): e1000097. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000097.
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.100...
].

Search strategy

We searched the PubMed and Embase.databases for relevant studies published from inception until May 2021. The search included various combinations of the terms scleroderma OR sclerosis AND systemic, together with medical subject headings (MeSH). The search terms used for PubMed were as follows: (“scleroderma, systemic” [Mesh] OR “systemic, scleroderma” [Title/Abstract] OR “systemic sclerosis” [Title/Abstract] OR “sclerosis, systemic” [Title/Abstract]) AND (“hypertension, pulmonary” [Mesh] OR “pulmonary hypertension” [Title/ Abstract]) AND (“mortality” [Mesh] OR “death” [Title/ Abstract]). The following filters were used: species (humans). In addition, we searched the reference lists of relevant studies, reviews, and letters. In cases of incomplete reporting, the individual authors were contacted.

Selection criteria

Studies were included if they met the following criteria:(1) the study was a cohort study; (2) the patients included were adults with a diagnosis of SSc according to the American College of Rheumatology Criteria [ 1818 Subcommittee for scleroderma criteria of the American Rheumatism Association Diagnostic and Therapeutic Criteria Committee. Preliminary criteria for the classification of systemic sclerosis (scleroderma). Arthritis Rheum. 1980;23(5):581–90. https://doi.org/10.1002/art.1780230510.
https://doi.org/10.1002/art.1780230510...
] and/ or the Leroy and Medsger classification [ 1919 LeRoy EC, Medsger TA Jr. Criteria for the classification of early systemic sclerosis. J Rheumatol. 2001;28(7):1573–6. ]; (3) PH was defined as mean pulmonary arterial pressure > 20 mmHg on right heart catheterization (RHC) [ 2020 Simonneau G, Montani D, Celermajer DS, Denton CP, Gatzoulis MA, Krowka M, et al. Haemodynamic definitions and updated clinical classification of pulmonary hypertension. Eur Respir J. 2019;53(1):1801913. https://doi.org/10.1183/13993.003.01913-2018.
https://doi.org/10.1183/13993.003.01913-...
]. (4) Risk ratios (RRs) or odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were provided or the exact number of patients in each group (deceased patients with SSc and deceased patients with SSc-associated PH) was reported, allowing the RR or OR to be calculated. Articles were excluded before full reading when they reported data related to diseases other than SSc or focused on preclinical data, such as animal studies. We also excluded articles that did not provide precise data on mortality rate or frequency of PH. The full texts of the remaining articles were analyzed to determine whether the articles contained relevant information.

Risk of bias assessment

Quality assessment of individual studies was performed independently by two authors using the Newcastle– Ottawa Scale for cohort studies. The scale allocates stars (maximum of nine) for quality of selection, comparability exposure, and outcome of study participants ( Additional file 2: Material S2) [ 2121 Wells G, Shea B, O’Connell J. The Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS) for assessing the quality of nonrandomised studies in meta-analyses. Ottawa: Ottawa Health Research Institute; 2014. p. 7. ]. Disagreements were resolved through a joint re-evaluation of the original article.

Data extraction

Data were extracted from the selected studies independently by two authors using a predefined standardized form. The data extracted for the meta-analysis included the number of deaths in patients with SSc with and without PH ( Table 1 ). When the information available was incomplete, attempts were made to contact the corresponding authors of the studies for more details.

Table 1
Table of data extractions from 16 articles included in the study

Data analysis

The primary outcome was mortality in patients with SSc with PH. The RR for mortality was estimated for each study included in the meta-analysis. The meta-analysis was carried out using the inverse variance approach, which assumes a random-effects model, to determine the weight given to each study. It provided a RR estimate with a 95% CI, taking the weight of the different samples into account. RRs and their 95% CIs are shown in a forest plot. Statistical heterogeneity among the selected studies was quantified using the Q-test (Chi-2), using a level of significance of 0.05, and were reported using I2 statistics, in which high values indicate high heterogeneity. Heterogeneity values of 25%, 50%, and 75% were designated as low, moderate and high, respectively [ 2222 Higgins JP, Thompson SG, Deeks JJ, Altman DG. Measuring inconsistency in meta-analyses. BMJ. 2003;327(7414):557–60. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7414.557.
https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7414.557...
]. Computation was performed using the Revman 5.3.5 software package developed by the Cochrane Collaboration (The Nordic Cochrane Center, Copenhagen). P -values less than 0.05 were considered as significant.

Sensitivity analysis was performed to evaluate whether any individual study influenced the overall results in order to confirm the stability and reliability of the metaanalysis. Predefined subgroup analyses were performed between low- and high-quality studies (i.e., studies with quality scores under and over the median), recent and older studies, and studies with shorter or longer duration, to identify possible sources of heterogeneity.

Results

Selection of studies

Our search of the PubMed and Embase databases from inception to May 2021 retrieved 1161 citations. After the titles and abstracts were evaluated, 1107 reviews and articles did not meet the inclusion criteria. The full texts of the remaining 54 studies were examined, and the exclusion criteria were applied. Finally, 16 articles, with a total of 7857 patients with SSc and 1140 patients with SSc- associated PH, were selected for data extraction ( Fig. 1 ) [ 88 Trad S, Amoura Z, Beigelman C, Haroche J, Costedoat N, le Boutin TH, et al. Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a major mortality factor in diffuse systemic sclerosis, independent of interstitial lung disease. Arthritis Rheum. 2006;54(1):184–91. https://doi.org/10.1002/art.21538.
https://doi.org/10.1002/art.21538...
1111 Hoffmann-Vold AM, Molberg O, Midtvedt O, Garen T, Gran JT. Survival and causes of death in an unselected and complete cohort of Norwegian patients with systemic sclerosis. J Rheumatol. 2013;40(7):1127–33. https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.121390.
https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.121390...
, 1313 Hsu VM, Chung L, Hummers LK, Shah A, Simms R, Bolster M, et al. Risk factors for mortality and cardiopulmonary hospitalization in systemic sclerosis patients at risk for pulmonary hypertension, in the PHAROS Registry. J Rheumatol. 2019;46(2):176–83. https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.180018.
https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.180018...
, 1515 Noviani M, Saffari SE, Tan JL, Yip JWL, Teng GG, Law WG, et al. Mortality and hospitalization outcomes of interstitial lung disease and pulmonary hypertension in the Singapore systemic sclerosis cohort. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2020;50(3):473–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.2019.11.005.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.201...
, 2323 Chung MP, Dontsi M, Postlethwaite D, Kesh S, Simard JF, Fiorentino D, et al. Increased mortality in Asians with systemic sclerosis in Northern California. ACR Open Rheumatol. 2020;2(4):197–206. https://doi.org/10.1002/acr2.11126.
https://doi.org/10.1002/acr2.11126...
3232 Al-Dhaher FF, Pope JE, Ouimet JM. Determinants of morbidity and mortality of systemic sclerosis in Canada. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2010;39(4):269–77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.2008.06.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.200...
]

Fig. 1
Flow chart of study selection showing strategy used to include publications

Clinical results

A total of 16 studies were included in the meta-analysis ( Table 1 ). No study was excluded because of the quality assessment. The meta-analysis included 7857 patients with SSc, including 1140 with SSc-associated PH. Six studies showed significant correlation between mortality and PH [ 88 Trad S, Amoura Z, Beigelman C, Haroche J, Costedoat N, le Boutin TH, et al. Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a major mortality factor in diffuse systemic sclerosis, independent of interstitial lung disease. Arthritis Rheum. 2006;54(1):184–91. https://doi.org/10.1002/art.21538.
https://doi.org/10.1002/art.21538...
, 99 Hachulla E, Carpentier P, Gressin V, Diot E, Allanore Y, Sibilia J, et al. Risk factors for death and the 3-year survival of patients with systemic sclerosis: the French ItinérAIR-Sclérodermie study. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2009;48(3):304–8. https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/ken488.
https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/ken...
, 1111 Hoffmann-Vold AM, Molberg O, Midtvedt O, Garen T, Gran JT. Survival and causes of death in an unselected and complete cohort of Norwegian patients with systemic sclerosis. J Rheumatol. 2013;40(7):1127–33. https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.121390.
https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.121390...
, 1212 Hu S, Hou Y, Wang Q, Li M, Xu D, Zeng X. Prognostic profile of systemic sclerosis: analysis of the clinical EUSTAR cohort in China. Arthritis Res Therapy. 2018;20(1):1–9. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13075-018-1735-4.
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13075-018-1735-...
, 2525 Panopoulos S, Bournia VK, Konstantonis G, Fragiadaki K, Sfikakis PP, Tektonidou MG. Predictors of morbidity and mortality in early systemic sclerosis: Long-term follow-up data from a single-centre inception cohort. Autoimmun Rev. 2018;17(8):816–20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autrev.2018.02.008.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autrev.2018.02...
, 2626 Moon KW, Lee SS, Lee YJ, Jun JB, Yoo SJ, Ju JH, et al. Clinical and laboratory characteristics and mortality in korean patients with systemic sclerosis: a nationwide multicenter retrospective cohort study. J Rheumatol. 2018;45(9):1281–8. https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.171443.
https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.171443...
]. Meta-analysis of the pooled outcomes showed a higher mortality in patients with PH than in those without. The pooled RR was 3.12 (95% CI [2.44,3.98], I2 = 64%) ( Fig. 2 ), which indicated moderate heterogeneity among the studies. Similar effects were consistently observed in the sensitivity and subgroup analyses ( Table 2 ), which confirmed the robustness of our results. Furthermore, the moderate heterogeneity reduced to 49% if we excluded the study by Rubio-Rivas (2018) [ 2424 Rubio-Rivas M, Corbella X, Pestaña-Fernández M, Tolosa-Vilella C, Guillen-Del Castillo A, Colunga-Argüelles D, et al. First clinical symptom as a prognostic factor in systemic sclerosis: results of a retrospective nationwide cohort study. Clin Rheumatol. 2018;37(4):999–1009. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10067-017-3936-7.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10067-017-3936-...
] ( Fig. 3 ). This may be attributed to the larger sample size (a multicenter, nationwide, retrospective study involving 28 referral centers for diagnosis and management of SSc from 1995 to 2015), which was different from that of other studies.

Fig. 2
Systemic sclerosis associated pulmonary hypertension: forest plot showing the pooled risk-ratio
Table 2
Subgroup of different causes of death in cohort of SSc-PH patients
Fig. 3
Systemic sclerosis associated pulmonary hypertension: forest plot showing the pooled risk-ratio when we excluded Rubio-Rivas, M 2018

Discussion

Most articles included in the meta-analysis highlighted that PH has an important impact on the mortality in patients with SSc. In particular, four studies showed significant correlations between mortality and PH, with PH increasing the RR for mortality in patients with SSc by more than fivefold [ 99 Hachulla E, Carpentier P, Gressin V, Diot E, Allanore Y, Sibilia J, et al. Risk factors for death and the 3-year survival of patients with systemic sclerosis: the French ItinérAIR-Sclérodermie study. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2009;48(3):304–8. https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/ken488.
https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/ken...
, 1111 Hoffmann-Vold AM, Molberg O, Midtvedt O, Garen T, Gran JT. Survival and causes of death in an unselected and complete cohort of Norwegian patients with systemic sclerosis. J Rheumatol. 2013;40(7):1127–33. https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.121390.
https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.121390...
, 1212 Hu S, Hou Y, Wang Q, Li M, Xu D, Zeng X. Prognostic profile of systemic sclerosis: analysis of the clinical EUSTAR cohort in China. Arthritis Res Therapy. 2018;20(1):1–9. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13075-018-1735-4.
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13075-018-1735-...
, 2525 Panopoulos S, Bournia VK, Konstantonis G, Fragiadaki K, Sfikakis PP, Tektonidou MG. Predictors of morbidity and mortality in early systemic sclerosis: Long-term follow-up data from a single-centre inception cohort. Autoimmun Rev. 2018;17(8):816–20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autrev.2018.02.008.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autrev.2018.02...
]. Recent studies, including the EUSTAR registry, reported 5-year and 10-year survival rates of 90% and 84%, respectively [ 1616 Tyndall AJ, Bannert B, Vonk M, Airò P, Cozzi F, Carreira PE, et al. Causes and risk factors for death in systemic sclerosis: a study from the EULAR Scleroderma Trials and Research (EUSTAR) database. Ann Rheum Dis. 2010;69(10):1809–15. https://doi.org/10.1136/ard.2009.114264.
https://doi.org/10.1136/ard.2009.114264...
]. However, the 3-year and 5-year survival rates in patients with SSc-associated PH are between 31% and 62.5% [ 3333 Avouac J, Airò P, Meune C, Beretta L, Dieude P, Caramaschi P, et al. Prevalence of pulmonary hypertension in systemic sclerosis in European Caucasians and metaanalysis of 5 studies. J Rheumatol. 2010;37(11):2290–8. https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.100245.
https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.100245...
3636 Lefèvre G, Dauchet L, Hachulla E, Montani D, Sobanski V, Lambert M, et al. Survival and prognostic factors in systemic sclerosis-associated pulmonary hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arthritis Rheum. 2013;65(9):2412–23. https://doi.org/10.1002/art.38029.
https://doi.org/10.1002/art.38029...
], and < 50%, respectively [ 3434 Foocharoen C, Nanagara R, Kiatchoosakun S, Suwannaroj S, Mahakka-nukrauh A. Prognostic factors of mortality and 2-year survival analysis of systemic sclerosis with pulmonary arterial hypertension in Thailand. Int J Rheum Dis. 2011;14(3):282–9. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1756-185X.2011.01625.x.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1756-185X.2011...
]. Our findings support the significant impact of this complication on mortality in patients with SSc. SSc with PH was associated with higher mortality than SSc without PH (RR= 3.12; 95% CI [2.44, 3.98]) in this meta-analysis. Moreover, a comparison of our results with those of the meta-analysis by Komocsi [ 3737 Komócsi A, Vorobcsuk A, Faludi R, Pintér T, Lenkey Z, Költo G, et al. The impact of cardiopulmonary manifestations on the mortality of SSC: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Rheumatology (United Kingdom). 2012;51(6):1027–36. https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/ker357.
https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/ker...
] on mortality in patients with SSc-associ- ated PH showed that the RR for mortality in patients with SSc-associated PH was similar between the studies. This revealed a poor prognosis in patients with SSc-associated PH. The primary cause of death in patients with SSc- associated PH may be PH itself, that is, acute right ventricular failure leading to biventricular failure [ 3838 Kanemoto N. Natural history of pulmonary hemodynamics in primary pulmonary hypertension. Am Heart J. 1987;114(2):407–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/0002-8703(87)90510-2.
https://doi.org/10.1016/0002-8703(87)905...
4040 Kawato H, Hitosugi M, Kido M, Yufu T, Nagai T, Tokudome S. An autopsy case of sudden death in a boy with primary pulmonary hypertension: a case report. Med Sci Law. 2005;45(4):361–3. https://doi.org/10.1258/rsmmsl.45.4.361.
https://doi.org/10.1258/rsmmsl.45.4.361...
]. Fortunately, early diagnosis and treatment may improve long-term outcomes in patients with SSc-associated PH [ 4141 Pope JE, Lee P, Baron M, Dunne J, Smith D, Docherty PS, et al. Prevalence of elevated pulmonary arterial pressures measured by echocardiography in a multicenter study of patients with systemic sclerosis. J Rheumatol. 2005;32(7):1273–8. ].

PH is hemodynamically defined as a mean pulmonary artery pressure>20 mmHg at rest on RHC [ 2020 Simonneau G, Montani D, Celermajer DS, Denton CP, Gatzoulis MA, Krowka M, et al. Haemodynamic definitions and updated clinical classification of pulmonary hypertension. Eur Respir J. 2019;53(1):1801913. https://doi.org/10.1183/13993.003.01913-2018.
https://doi.org/10.1183/13993.003.01913-...
], and it has a highly heterogeneous etiology [ 4242 Fishman AP. Clinical classification of pulmonary hypertension. Clin Chest Med. 2001;22(3):385–91. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0272-5231(05)70278-1.
https://doi.org/10.1016/s0272-5231(05)70...
]. PH can be classified as: Group 1, PAH; Group 1-bis’, PVOD and/or pulmonary capillary haemangiomatosis; Group 2, PH due to LHD; Group 3, PH due to lung disease and/or hypoxia; Group 4, chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH); and Group 5, PH due to unclear multifactorial mechanisms [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
].

The time from symptom onset to diagnosis of PH is often long, which can delay initiation of treatment and contribute to worse outcomes [ 4343 Barnett CF, Alvarez P, Park MH. Pulmonary arterial hypertension: diagnosis and treatment. Cardiol Clin. 2016;34(3):375–89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ccl.201604.006.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ccl.201604.006...
]. A recent study found that the incidence of early-onset PH was similar to that of late-onset PH (0.7 per 100 person-years), with a mean disease duration at the time of PH diagnosis of 2.2 years for early-onset PH and 9.3 years for late-onset PH [ 1414 Krikeerati T, Pussadhamma B, Mahakkanukrauh A, Suwannaroj S, Nana-gara R, Foocharoen C. Associated factors of early-onset pulmonary hypertension and clinical difference between early-and late-onset pulmonary hypertension in Thai systemic sclerosis. Mod Rheumatol. 2020. https://doi.org/10.1080/14397595.2020.1823067.
https://doi.org/10.1080/14397595.2020.18...
]. Thus, patients diagnosed with SSc should be closely monitored and screened for PH, particularly during the first 2 years of onset [ 1414 Krikeerati T, Pussadhamma B, Mahakkanukrauh A, Suwannaroj S, Nana-gara R, Foocharoen C. Associated factors of early-onset pulmonary hypertension and clinical difference between early-and late-onset pulmonary hypertension in Thai systemic sclerosis. Mod Rheumatol. 2020. https://doi.org/10.1080/14397595.2020.1823067.
https://doi.org/10.1080/14397595.2020.18...
]. However, early symptoms of PH are non-specific [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
], and early diagnosis of PH is easily overlooked by physicians. A recent retrospective observational study showed that patients with SSc with early diagnosis of PH through screening before symptom onset had a better prognosis compared to patients identified after symptom onset [ 1616 Tyndall AJ, Bannert B, Vonk M, Airò P, Cozzi F, Carreira PE, et al. Causes and risk factors for death in systemic sclerosis: a study from the EULAR Scleroderma Trials and Research (EUSTAR) database. Ann Rheum Dis. 2010;69(10):1809–15. https://doi.org/10.1136/ard.2009.114264.
https://doi.org/10.1136/ard.2009.114264...
]. However, PH is typically recognized in the late stage, when patients present with severe symptoms, hemodynamic deterioration, and poor prognosis [ 4444 Humbert M, Sitbon O, Chaouat A, Bertocchi M, Habib G, Gressin V, et al. Pulmonary arterial hypertension in France: results from a national registry. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2006;173(9):1023–30. https://doi.org/10.1164/rccm.200510-1668OC.
https://doi.org/10.1164/rccm.200510-1668...
]. However, considering the higher mortality in patients with SSc-PH, physicians should pay attention to the early diagnosis of PH in patients with SSc. Current guidelines recommend comprehensive screening for PH to enable early and correct diagnosis [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
]. Echocardiography is the first step in the analysis process. Echocardiography is currently the most important noninvasive method for the diagnosis of PH [ 4545 Kovacs G, Olschewski H. Potential role of exercise echocardiography and right heart catheterization in the detection of early pulmonary vascular disease in patients with systemic sclerosis. J Scleroderma Relat Disord. 2019. https://doi.org/10.1177/2397198319849805.
https://doi.org/10.1177/2397198319849805...
] and is known to identify PH with high sensitivity [ 4646 Denton CP, Cailes JB, Phillips GD, Wells AU, Black CM, Bois RM. Comparison of Doppler echocardiography and right heart catheterization to assess pulmonary hypertension in systemic sclerosis. Br J Rheumatol. 1997;36(2):239–43. https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/36.2.239.
https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/36....
]. When echocardiography reveals a tricuspid regurgitation velocity between 2.9 m/s and 3.4 m/s, there is an intermediate probability of PH. If the value is >3.4 m/s, there is a high probability of PH [ 4747 Giordano N, Corallo C, Chirico C, Brazzi A, Marinetti A, Fioravanti A, et al. Pulmonary arterial hypertension in systemic sclerosis: diagnosis and treatment according to the European Society of Cardiology and European Respiratory Society 2015 guidelines. J Scleroderma Relat Disord. 2019;4(1):35–42. https://doi.org/10.1177/2397198318808998.
https://doi.org/10.1177/2397198318808998...
]. Echocardiography is widely available and allows the estimation of pulmonary artery systolic pressure (PASP), cardiac output, and with some limitations also pulmonary artery wedge pressure (PAWP) [ 4545 Kovacs G, Olschewski H. Potential role of exercise echocardiography and right heart catheterization in the detection of early pulmonary vascular disease in patients with systemic sclerosis. J Scleroderma Relat Disord. 2019. https://doi.org/10.1177/2397198319849805.
https://doi.org/10.1177/2397198319849805...
]. The threshold of PASP ≥ 45 mmHg is associated with PH at catheterization in 97% of cases [ 4848 Mukerjee D, St George D, Knight C, Davar J, Wells AU, Du Bois RM, et al. Echocardiography and pulmonary function as screening tests for pulmonary arterial hypertension in systemic sclerosis. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2004;43(4):461–6. https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/keh067.
https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/keh...
]. The poor prognosis of patients with SSc-associated PH emphasizes the need for physicians to follow the most recent guidelines, and echocardiographic screening for the detection of PH is recommended for patients with SSc without symptoms of PH. The second step is to identify the clinical group. An electrocardiogram (ECG) may provide supportive evidence of PH, but a normal ECG does not exclude the diagnosis. An abnormal ECG is more likely in severe rather than mild PH. ECG abnormalities may include P pulmonale, right axis deviation, right ventricular (RV) hypertrophy, RV strain, right bundle branch block, and QTc prolongation [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
]. If echocardiography is suggestive of PH, it is possible to evaluate left heart involvement using an ECG in order to confirm the diagnosis of Group 2 PH [ 4747 Giordano N, Corallo C, Chirico C, Brazzi A, Marinetti A, Fioravanti A, et al. Pulmonary arterial hypertension in systemic sclerosis: diagnosis and treatment according to the European Society of Cardiology and European Respiratory Society 2015 guidelines. J Scleroderma Relat Disord. 2019;4(1):35–42. https://doi.org/10.1177/2397198318808998.
https://doi.org/10.1177/2397198318808998...
]. Chest radiographs in patients with PH reveal central pulmonary arterial dilatation, which contrasts with ‘pruning’ (loss) of the peripheral blood vessels. A chest radiograph may assist in the differential diagnosis of PH by revealing signs suggestive of lung disease (Group 3) or pulmonary venous congestion due to LHD (Group 2) [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
]. Pulmonary function tests identify the presence of airway or parenchymal lung disease. Usually, patients with PAH (Group 1) have a reduced diffusion capacity of the lungs for carbon monoxide (DLCO, 40–80% [predicted]) and mild-to-moderate reduction in lung volumes with normal left heart function [ 4747 Giordano N, Corallo C, Chirico C, Brazzi A, Marinetti A, Fioravanti A, et al. Pulmonary arterial hypertension in systemic sclerosis: diagnosis and treatment according to the European Society of Cardiology and European Respiratory Society 2015 guidelines. J Scleroderma Relat Disord. 2019;4(1):35–42. https://doi.org/10.1177/2397198318808998.
https://doi.org/10.1177/2397198318808998...
]. DLCO is probably one of the most important parameters to be evaluated in patients with SSc because it can represent a marker of PAH. A reduced DLCO with a conserved forced vital capacity is suggestive of pulmonary vascular disease, and the probability is especially high in patients with SSc- associated PH [ 4949 Coghlan JG, Denton CP, Grünig E, Bonderman D, Distler O, Khanna D, et al. Evidence-based detection of pulmonary arterial hypertension in systemic sclerosis: the DETECT study. Ann Rheum Dis. 2014;73(7):1340–9. https://doi.org/10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-203301.
https://doi.org/10.1136/annrheumdis-2013...
]. An annual lung function test with DLCO is recommended for patients with SSc [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
]. Highresolution computed tomography (HRCT) provides detailed views of the lung parenchyma and facilitates the diagnosis of ILD (Group3) [ 5050 Mathai SC, Hassoun PM. Pulmonary arterial hypertension in connective tissue diseases. Heart Fail Clin. 2012;8(3):413–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hfc.2012.04.001.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hfc.2012.04.00...
]. Moreover, HRCT may also be very helpful when there is a clinical suspicion of PVOD (Group1). Characteristic changes such as interstitial edema with diffuse central ground-glass opacification and thickening of the interlobular septa support the diagnosis of PVOD [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
]. A ventilation/perfusion (V/Q) lung scan will allow identification of CTEPH (Group4). The V/Q scan is the screening method of choice for CTEPH because of its higher sensitivity to chronic pulmonary obstruction compared with computed tomography pulmonary angiogram [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
]. The last procedure is the RHC, which is mandatory in all patients with suspected PH to confirm the diagnosis and determine disease severity [ 4343 Barnett CF, Alvarez P, Park MH. Pulmonary arterial hypertension: diagnosis and treatment. Cardiol Clin. 2016;34(3):375–89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ccl.201604.006.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ccl.201604.006...
].

PH is the hallmark manifestation of microvasculopathy in SSc, and rapid evolution of vasculopathy occurs in the initial years [ 5151 Rossi D, Zanatta E, Marson P, Sciascia S, Polito P, Roccatello D, et al. How I treat patients with systemic sclerosis in clinical practice. Autoimmun Rev. 2017;16(10):1024–8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autrev.2017.07.018.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autrev.2017.07...
]. Therefore, once PH is diagnosed via RHC, it should be treated aggressively. Careful phenotyping of SSc-associated PH is important, as the treatment for each specific underlying condition is different. For patients with SSc in Group 1, the initial therapy includes the following general measures: physical activity and supervised rehabilitation, avoiding pregnancy, infection prevention, psychosocial support, and supportive therapy, in particular, oxygen and diuretics [ 4747 Giordano N, Corallo C, Chirico C, Brazzi A, Marinetti A, Fioravanti A, et al. Pulmonary arterial hypertension in systemic sclerosis: diagnosis and treatment according to the European Society of Cardiology and European Respiratory Society 2015 guidelines. J Scleroderma Relat Disord. 2019;4(1):35–42. https://doi.org/10.1177/2397198318808998.
https://doi.org/10.1177/2397198318808998...
]. In addition, high doses of calcium channel blockers are recommended in patients with IPAH (idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension), HPAH (heritable pulmonary arterial hypertension) and PAH associated with drugs and toxin use who respond to acute vasoreactivity testing [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
]. However, as reported before, patients with SSc-asso- ciated PAH do not respond to calcium channel blockers therapy, so it is important to begin the treatment with specific vasodilators as soon as possible [ 4747 Giordano N, Corallo C, Chirico C, Brazzi A, Marinetti A, Fioravanti A, et al. Pulmonary arterial hypertension in systemic sclerosis: diagnosis and treatment according to the European Society of Cardiology and European Respiratory Society 2015 guidelines. J Scleroderma Relat Disord. 2019;4(1):35–42. https://doi.org/10.1177/2397198318808998.
https://doi.org/10.1177/2397198318808998...
]. The main goal in the treatment of Group 2 PH is to optimize the underlying left heart condition [ 5252 Attanasio U, Cuomo A, Pirozzi F, Loffredo S, Abete P, Petretta M, et al. Pulmonary hypertension phenotypes in systemic sclerosis: the right diagnosis for the right treatment. Int J Mol Sci. 2020;21(12):4430. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21124430.
https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21124430...
]. This includes repair of valvular heart disease when indicated, and aggressive therapy for heart failure with reduced systolic function [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
]. Currently, there is no specific therapy for PH associated with lung diseases (Group 3). Long-term O2 administration has been shown to partially reduce the progression of PH. Thus, patients with lung disease and PH who are hypoxemic should receive long-term O2 therapy [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
]. Treatment with conventional vasodilators such as calcium channel blockers is not recommended because they may impair gas exchange due to the inhibition of hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction [ 5353 Barberà JA, Roger N, Roca J, Rovira I, Higenbottam TW, Rodriguez-Roisin R. Worsening of pulmonary gas exchange with nitric oxide inhalation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Lancet. 1996;347(8999):436–40. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(96)90011-2.
https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(96)90...
] and because of their lack of efficacy after long-term use [ 5454 Morrell NW, Higham MA, Phillips PG, Shakur BH, Robinson PJ, Beddoes RJ. Pilot study of losartan for pulmonary hypertension in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Respir Res. 2005;6(1):88. https://doi.org/10.1186/1465-9921-6-88.
https://doi.org/10.1186/1465-9921-6-88...
]. Further, the use of drugs approved for PAH is not recommended for patients with PH due to lung disease [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
]. Pulmonary endarterectomy is the treatment of choice for CTEPH (Group 4) [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
]. Moreover, treatment of CTEPH necessitates a true bilateral endarterectomy through the medial layer of the pulmonary arteries, which is performed under deep hypothermia and circulatory arrest without the need for cerebral perfusion [ 5555 Madani MM, Auger WR, Pretorius V, Sakakibara N, Kerr KM, Kim NH, et al. Pulmonary endarterectomy: recent changes in a single institution’s experience of more than 2,700 patients. Ann Thorac Surg. 2012;94(1):97–103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.athoracsur.2012.04.004 ( discussion ).
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.athoracsur.201...
]. PH with unclear and/or multifactorial mechanisms (Group 5) includes several disorders with multiple patholologies [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
]. A common feature of these diseases is that the mechanisms of PH are poorly understood. The axiom should be ‘Treat the lung, not the pressure [ 55 Galiè N, Humbert M, Vachiery JL, Gibbs S, Lang I, Torbicki A, et al. 2015 ESC/ERS Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Hypertension. Rev Esp Cardiol (Engl Ed). 2016;69(2):177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rec.2016.01.00...
]. Meanwhile, treatments for SSc-associated PH are complex and best accomplished by a multidisciplinary team [ 4343 Barnett CF, Alvarez P, Park MH. Pulmonary arterial hypertension: diagnosis and treatment. Cardiol Clin. 2016;34(3):375–89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ccl.201604.006.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ccl.201604.006...
].

Our study had several limitations: The meta-analysis included observational studies, which are usually unbalanced with regard to the baseline clinical characteristics of the patients. Thus, outcome parameters were pooled with logarithmic transformation according to a randomeffects model via generic inverse-variance weighting, which is a more appropriate method for observational studies. Four studies included were published more than ten years ago [ 88 Trad S, Amoura Z, Beigelman C, Haroche J, Costedoat N, le Boutin TH, et al. Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a major mortality factor in diffuse systemic sclerosis, independent of interstitial lung disease. Arthritis Rheum. 2006;54(1):184–91. https://doi.org/10.1002/art.21538.
https://doi.org/10.1002/art.21538...
, 99 Hachulla E, Carpentier P, Gressin V, Diot E, Allanore Y, Sibilia J, et al. Risk factors for death and the 3-year survival of patients with systemic sclerosis: the French ItinérAIR-Sclérodermie study. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2009;48(3):304–8. https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/ken488.
https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/ken...
, 3131 Joven BE, Almodovar R, Carmona L, Carreira PE. Survival, causes of death, and risk factors associated with mortality in Spanish systemic sclerosis patients: results from a single university hospital. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2010;39(4):285–93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.2009.06.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.200...
, 3232 Al-Dhaher FF, Pope JE, Ouimet JM. Determinants of morbidity and mortality of systemic sclerosis in Canada. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2010;39(4):269–77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.2008.06.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.200...
], seven studies had a short follow-up of less than 10 years [ 88 Trad S, Amoura Z, Beigelman C, Haroche J, Costedoat N, le Boutin TH, et al. Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a major mortality factor in diffuse systemic sclerosis, independent of interstitial lung disease. Arthritis Rheum. 2006;54(1):184–91. https://doi.org/10.1002/art.21538.
https://doi.org/10.1002/art.21538...
, 99 Hachulla E, Carpentier P, Gressin V, Diot E, Allanore Y, Sibilia J, et al. Risk factors for death and the 3-year survival of patients with systemic sclerosis: the French ItinérAIR-Sclérodermie study. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2009;48(3):304–8. https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/ken488.
https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/ken...
, 1313 Hsu VM, Chung L, Hummers LK, Shah A, Simms R, Bolster M, et al. Risk factors for mortality and cardiopulmonary hospitalization in systemic sclerosis patients at risk for pulmonary hypertension, in the PHAROS Registry. J Rheumatol. 2019;46(2):176–83. https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.180018.
https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.180018...
, 1515 Noviani M, Saffari SE, Tan JL, Yip JWL, Teng GG, Law WG, et al. Mortality and hospitalization outcomes of interstitial lung disease and pulmonary hypertension in the Singapore systemic sclerosis cohort. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2020;50(3):473–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.2019.11.005.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.201...
, 2525 Panopoulos S, Bournia VK, Konstantonis G, Fragiadaki K, Sfikakis PP, Tektonidou MG. Predictors of morbidity and mortality in early systemic sclerosis: Long-term follow-up data from a single-centre inception cohort. Autoimmun Rev. 2018;17(8):816–20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autrev.2018.02.008.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autrev.2018.02...
, 3030 Hesselstrand R, Wildt M, Ekmehag B, Wuttge DM, Scheja A. Survival in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension associated with systemic sclerosis from a Swedish single centre: prognosis still poor and prediction difficult. Scand J Rheumatol. 2011;40(2):127–32. https://doi.org/10.3109/03009742.2010.508751.
https://doi.org/10.3109/03009742.2010.50...
, 3131 Joven BE, Almodovar R, Carmona L, Carreira PE. Survival, causes of death, and risk factors associated with mortality in Spanish systemic sclerosis patients: results from a single university hospital. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2010;39(4):285–93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.2009.06.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.200...
], suggesting a potential bias. To address these potential limitations, we conducted subgroup analyses. Similar effects were consistently observed in the subgroup analyses, which confirmed the stability and reliability of our studies. Despite these limitations, our meta-analysis revealed an increased risk of mortality in patients with SSc with PH. A further limitation is that PH has been classically considered the main cause of death in patients with the limited cutaneous systemic sclerosis (lcSSc), but not in patients with diffuse cutaneous SSc (dcSSc). However, some studies have shown that this pulmonary vascular complication is a frequent clinical manifestation in all SSc subsets [ 3131 Joven BE, Almodovar R, Carmona L, Carreira PE. Survival, causes of death, and risk factors associated with mortality in Spanish systemic sclerosis patients: results from a single university hospital. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2010;39(4):285–93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.2009.06.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.200...
, 3232 Al-Dhaher FF, Pope JE, Ouimet JM. Determinants of morbidity and mortality of systemic sclerosis in Canada. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2010;39(4):269–77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.2008.06.002.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.200...
, 5656 Simeón-Aznar CP, Fonollosa-Plá V, Tolosa-Vilella C, Espinosa-Garriga G, Ramos-Casals M, Campillo-Grau M, et al. Registry of the Spanish network for systemic sclerosis: clinical pattern according to cutaneous subsets and immunological status. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2012;41(6):789–800. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.2011.10.004.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semarthrit.201...
]. Unfortunately, most articles included in our study did not provide precise data on mortality rate or frequency of lcSSc-PH and dcSSc-PH in each group, so we could not compare the mortality between lcSSc-PH and dcSSc-PH. Finally, lead-time bias may have affected the results. Therefore, further studies are required to resolve these issues.

Conclusion

The results of this meta-analysis confirm that patients with SSc and PH have a higher risk for poor outcomes. PH should be seen as a red flag for an increased risk of mortality and physicians should strive to diagnose SSc- associated PH early, so that early treatment may be initiated.

  • Funding
    The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the Government and School Cooperation Program of Nanchong, Sichuan, China (grant numbers 19SXHZ0148).
  • Availability of data and materials
    All data are fully available without restriction.
  • Declarations
    Ethics approval and consent to participate
    Not applicable.
  • Consent for publication
    Not applicable.
  • Competing interests
    The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Abbreviations

  • PH:  Pulmonary hypertension
  • SSc:  Systemic sclerosis
  • PAH:  Pulmonary arterial hypertension
  • PAWP:  Pulmonary artery wedge pressure
  • LHD:  Left heart disease
  • ILD:  Interstitial lung diseases
  • PVOD:  Pulmonary veno-occlusive disease
  • CTEPH:  Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension
  • RHC:  Right heart catheterization
  • PRISMA:  Preferred Reporting Items for Systemic Reviews and Meta-Analyses
  • MeSH:  Medical subject headings
  • RR:  Risk ratio
  • OR:  Odds ratio
  • CI:  Confidence interval
  • PAP:  Pulmonary artery pressure
  • RV:  Right ventricular
  • DLCO:  Diffusing capacity of the lungs for carbon monoxide
  • ECG:  Electrocardiogram
  • HRCT:  High-resolution computed tomography
  • V/Q:  Ventilation/Per-fusion
  • lcSSc:  Limited cutaneous systemic sclerosis
  • dcSSc:  Diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis

Acknowledgements

Not applicable.

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Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at https://doi.org/10.1186/s42358-022-00239-2

Additional file 1:

Material S1. PRISMA 2009 checklist. PRISMA checklist.

Additional file 2:

Material S2. Results of quality assessment using the Newcastle–Ottawa Scale for cohort studies. Newcastle–Ottawa Scale.

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    22 Apr 2022
  • Date of issue
    2022

History

  • Received
    21 Sept 2021
  • Accepted
    26 Feb 2022
  • Published
    30 Mar 2022
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