A comprehensive review of the literature on shrinking lungs syndrome (SLS) in systemic lupus erythematosus involved a MEDLINE search (1965-1997) of case reports and clinical series of patients with the diagnosis of SLS. A total of 49 well-documented cases of SLS were reviewed. Shrinking lungs syndrome is characterized by unexplained dyspnea, a restrictive pattern on pulmonary function test results, and an elevated hemidiaphragm. The cause of SLS remains controversial, with several authors attributing the disorder to diaphragmatic weakness and others suggesting that chest wall restriction accounts for the clinical syndrome. No definitive therapy exists. Corticosteroids have been reported to lessen symptoms and improve pulmonary function in some patients with SLS, but other methods of treatment have occasionally been found to be helpful. Clinical presentation, method of diagnosis, pathogenesis, and treatment modalities are summarized in this review. An uncommon complication of systemic lupus erythematosus, SLS causes significant morbidity and, occasionally, mortality.
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