Nonspecific interstitial pneumonia: A rare adverse reaction of atorvastatin

Jack Xu, Steven Verga, Jonathan Stoll, Lauren Pioppo, Eileen Shanahan, Wajahat Khan


Introduction: Statins have been shown to effectively prevent both cardiovascular morbidity and mortality by inhibiting the hydroxymethylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase enzyme. Pulmonary complications are very rare, and can include pneumonitis, pleural effusion, and nonspecific interstitial pneumonia (NSIP). There have been very few previously documented cases of statin-induced fibrotic NSIP.

Case report: We present a female with a history of hyperlipidemia on atorvastatin who presented with shortness of breath. Computed tomography scan of the chest revealed interstitial infiltrates with bilateral ground-glass opacities. She underwent a surgical lung biopsy which showed uniform fibrous alveolar septal thickening, scattered collections of alveolar macrophages and inflammation, along with areas of fibrosis. The findings were most suggestive of fibrotic NSIP. Atorvastatin was stopped and she was started on mycophenolic acid with improvement of her symptoms.

Discussion: Although rare, the clinician should be aware of possible pulmonary complications of statin therapy. The exact mechanism of injury is unclear, however immunological or toxicological mechanisms are implicated. One case series of statin induced interstitial lung disease showed some improvement of dyspnea with systemic glucocorticoids and termination of statin therapy. Statins, specifically pravastatin, lovastatin, and simvastatin have been associated with drug induced pneumonitis and interstitial lung disease.

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Case Reports in Internal Medicine

ISSN 2332-7243(Print)  ISSN 2332-7251(Online)

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