FRIDAY, Dec. 5, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- People with the deadly lung disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) are three times more likely than people without the disease to suffer severe cardiac events such as a heart attack, according to a British study.
"If you look at them over time, people with IPF have roughly a threefold increased risk of acute coronary syndrome, which is a greater increase than you get from smoking," lead author Dr. Richard B. Hubbard, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, said in an American Thoracic Society news release.
Hubbard and his colleagues analyzed data from 920 IPF patients and 3,593 people without the disease. In addition to being at increased risk for heart attacks, IPF patients were 23 percent more likely to have angina, 60 percent more likely to have a stroke, and three times more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis.
The researchers also found that IPF patients were more than twice as likely to have been prescribed amiodarone, a medication used to treat irregular heartbeats. The drug has been implicated as a cause of fibrotic lung disease, the researchers said.
The study was published in the second issue for December of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
About 60,000 people in the United States have IPF, and 21,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Median survival from the time of diagnosis is about three years. Currently, there are no treatments known to increase survival. Medical knowledge about IPF is limited.
"We know that genetic factors play some role in IPF, because it clusters in families in about 10 percent of cases, and in a similar number of people, there is evidence that environmental factors, such as exposure to metal dust at work and cigarette smoking may have a role," Hubbard said. "But studies from the U.S.A. and U.K. suggest that IPF is becoming more common, and the reasons for this are unclear."
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. David Zisman and Dr. Steven Kawut said further research is needed "to better understand the relationship between IPF and systemic vascular disease as well as the mechanisms shared by the two syndromes."
If studies confirm a causal relationship, "the presence of IPF itself could constitute a sufficiently potent risk factor for coronary artery disease such that more aggressive goals in risk factor modification would be warranted."
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about IPF.