Utility of precipitating antibody testing in the diagnostic evaluation of chronic hypersensitivity pneumonia

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Federica De Giacomi
Anita Andreano
Paola Faverio
Alice Biffi
Leonardo Ruvolo
Nicola Sverzellati
Maria Grazia Valsecchi
Alberto Pesci


Interstitial lung disease, Hypersensitivity pneumonia, Precipitins, Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis


Background: Chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), in its progressive fibrotic form, is difficult to distinguish from other fibrosing interstitial lung diseases (ILD), particularly idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and non-specific interstitial pneumonia (NSIP). The role of serum precipitating antibodies in the diagnosis of fibrosing ILD has not been discussed in recent clinical practice guidelines. Objectives: The aim of this study is to assess the role of precipitins in the diagnosis of non pre-selected cases of fibrosing ILD. Methods: Clinical records of 108 consecutive patients referred for presumptive fibrosing ILD to our institution were retrospectively assessed for exposure history, serum precipitins, other diagnostic examinations, and multidisciplinary diagnosis (MDD). Their high resolution computed tomography (HRCT) images were blindly and prospectively re-assessed. We estimated sensitivity and specificity of precipitins against MDD and, to account for incorporation bias, we used two composite reference standards (CRSs), having exposure history and HRCT as component tests. Results: Definitive diagnosis achieved through MDD were chronic HP (17% of cases), NSIP (42%), IPF (18%) and others (23%). For serum precipitins, we estimated a sensitivity of 72% and a specificity of 68% using MDD as the reference standard. Sensitivity against the AND-CRS was 55%, while specificity against the OR-CRS was 61%. On the basis of this results, we can expect true sensitivity of precipitins lying between 55 and 72% and specificity between 61 and 68%. Conclusions: Serum precipitating antibodies did not result as having a relevant role in the diagnostic approach to chronic HP

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