Goodpasture's Syndrome

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PatientPlus articles are written by UK doctors and are based on research evidence, UK and European Guidelines. They are designed for health professionals to use, so you may find the language more technical than the condition leaflets.

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Synonyms: antiglomerular basement membrane disease, anti-GBM disease

Goodpasture's syndrome is the co-existence of acute glomerulonephritis and pulmonary alveolar haemorrhage, of which Goodpasture's syndrome is one cause.[1] Goodpasture's syndrome is a specific autoimmune disease caused by a type II antigen-antibody reaction leading to diffuse pulmonary haemorrhage, glomerulonephritis (and often acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease). There are circulating antiglomerular basement membrane (anti-GBM) antibodies.[2] 

  • Goodpasture's syndrome is uncommon. Frequencies vary from 0.5 to 1 cases per million per year.[3] 
  • In adults, Goodpasture's syndrome is more common in men.
  • It is rare in children.[4] 
  • Most patients have both renal and pulmonary disease. In a minority of patients, the kidneys alone or only the lungs are affected, but more often only the kidneys.

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Risk factors

Insults to the lungs are probably required to produce both the renal and pulmonary disease.

  • There is a strong genetic linkage to HLA-DRB1.[3][5] 
  • Exposure to organic solvents or hydrocarbons.
  • Smoking.
  • Infection - eg, influenza.
  • A case in a heavy smoker who had taken to using crack cocaine is described.
  • Exposure to metal dusts.
  • It can occur after renal transplantation in Alport's syndrome.[6]

Typically presents as acute kidney injury caused by a rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis, accompanied by pulmonary haemorrhage that may be life-threatening.[2] 


  • Chills and fever, nausea and vomiting, weight loss, chest pain.
  • Anaemia, which may result from persistent intrapulmonary bleeding.
  • Massive pulmonary haemorrhage, which can cause respiratory failure.
  • Haematuria.
  • There is a rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis that may lead to acute kidney injury and volume overload.
  • Arthralgia.


  • Tachypnoea.
  • Dyspnoea, which can be severe.
  • Inspiratory crackles over lung bases.
  • Cyanosis.
  • Hepatosplenomegaly (sometimes).
  • Hypertension.
  • Skin rash.
  • There may be gross haematuria and pallor from anaemia.

Blood tests

  • FBC: iron-deficiency anaemia from intrapulmonary bleeding, leukocytosis.
  • Renal function and electrolytes: watch for renal failure. Azotemia (abnormally high blood levels of nitrogen-containing compounds, such as urea, creatinine and other nitrogen-rich compounds) is often present.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) is raised in vasculitis but not in Goodpasture's syndrome.
  • Urinalysis is typical of acute glomerulonephritis, with low-grade albuminuria, gross or microscopic haematuria, and red blood cell casts.
  • Assess antinuclear antibodies and complement levels.
  • Anti-GBM antibodies are diagnostic: assays for antibodies are valuable for confirming the diagnosis and monitoring therapy. Radioimmunoassays or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs):[3] 
    • ELISAs for anti-GBM antibodies are highly sensitive and specific.
    • Antineutrophilic cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCAs) may be present in addition to anti-GBM antibody.


  • Patchy consolidation, usually bilateral, symmetrical, perihilar, and bibasilar.
  • The apices and costophrenic angles are usually spared.
  • 18% may have a normal CXR.
  • Recurrent pulmonary haemorrhage causes new opacities.

Other tests

Pulmonary function tests are not usually helpful but spirometry may show some restriction.


  • Percutaneous kidney biopsy is the preferred invasive procedure to substantiate the diagnosis.
  • Sometimes transjugular renal biopsy is performed. Renal biopsy is not required if anti-GBM antibodies are present.
  • Lung biopsy: either transbronchial or open lung biopsy may be performed in cases where renal biopsy cannot be performed.

The three main principles of management are to:

  • Remove circulating antibodies rapidly by plasmapheresis (plasma exchange).
  • Stop further production of antibodies, using immunosuppressant medications.
  • Remove any identifiable cause of the antibody production.


  • Intubation, assisted ventilation, and haemodialysis are often required in the acute phase.
  • Repeated plasma exchange removes anti-GBM antibodies from the circulation.[7] 
  • End-stage renal disease can be managed by long-term haemodialysis or renal transplantation.


  • High-dose corticosteroids (intravenous methylprednisolone 7 to 15 mg/kg/day in divided doses) with cyclophosphamide or azathioprine are of benefit. Intravenous steroids are then converted to oral prednisolone.
  • Duration of immunosuppressive therapy varies considerably and may be necessary for longer than 12 to 18 months in some patients.
  • Usually, cyclophosphamide is given for three months and then the prednisolone is tailed off. Early use of these measures in combination may preserve renal function.


  • Cessation of pulmonary haemorrhage has been described after bilateral nephrectomy.
  • Renal transplantation has been used and, although there are immunoglobulin G (IgG) deposits in the graft, it does not appear to damage the kidney.

Acute respiratory failure, acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease are the most common complications. Other complications include:

  • Pulmonary haemorrhage with respiratory failure is the most common cause of death.
  • An early relapse within two months may occur when circulating antibodies are still present. This typically presents as alveolar haemorrhage. The risk factors for relapse include infection, volume overload, and cigarette smoking.
  • Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia has an annual incidence of 1% but is a potentially deadly complication of immunosuppressive therapy in patients with Goodpasture's syndrome. Prophylaxis with co-trimoxazole may be useful.
  • If Goodpasture's syndrome occurs in pregnancy it may produce hypertension and associated intrauterine growth restriction requiring premature delivery. Both mother and baby are at risk.[8]
  • In the past, the disease was almost invariably fatal, and sometimes rapidly so.
  • Aggressive therapy with plasma exchange, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressant drugs has dramatically improved prognosis, with the one-year survival rate of 70-90%.[5] 
  • Some people may have recurrent disease. Goodpasture's syndrome can recur in a transplanted kidney.

There is no known prevention, but avoid associated environmental risk factors such as cigarette smoking and hydrocarbon exposure - eg, sniffing glue and siphoning petrol.

Further reading & references

  1. Fatma LB, El Ati Z, Lamia R, et al; Alveolar hemorrhage and kidney disease: characteristics and therapy. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl. 2013 Jul;24(4):743-50.
  2. Greco A, Rizzo MI, De Virgilio A, et al; Goodpasture's syndrome: A clinical update. Autoimmun Rev. 2014 Nov 15. pii: S1568-9972(14)00278-X. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2014.11.006.
  3. Hellmark T, Segelmark M; Diagnosis and classification of Goodpasture's disease (anti-GBM). J Autoimmun. 2014 Feb-Mar;48-49:108-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jaut.2014.01.024. Epub 2014 Jan 21.
  4. Poddar B, Singhal S, Azim A, et al; Goodpasture's syndrome in children. Saudi J Kidney Dis Transpl. 2010 Sep;21(5):935-9.
  5. Dammacco F, Battaglia S, Gesualdo L, et al; Goodpasture's disease: a report of ten cases and a review of the literature. Autoimmun Rev. 2013 Sep;12(11):1101-8. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2013.06.014. Epub 2013 Jun 24.
  6. Hudson BG, Tryggvason K, Sundaramoorthy M, et al; Alport's syndrome, Goodpasture's syndrome, and type IV collagen. N Engl J Med. 2003 Jun 19;348(25):2543-56.
  7. Hildebrand AM, Huang SH, Clark WF; Plasma exchange for kidney disease: what is the best evidence? Adv Chronic Kidney Dis. 2014 Mar;21(2):217-27. doi: 10.1053/j.ackd.2014.01.008.
  8. Vasiliou DM, Maxwell C, Shah P, et al; Goodpasture syndrome in a pregnant woman. Obstet Gynecol. 2005 Nov;106(5 Pt 2):1196-9.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Dr Colin Tidy
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Document ID:
1497 (v24)
Last Checked:
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