Clinical and prognostic value of serial renal biopsies in lupus nephritis

Am J Kidney Dis. 1999 Sep;34(3):530-9. doi: 10.1016/s0272-6386(99)70082-x.


Little information is available about the role of repeated renal biopsies in lupus nephritis. We analyzed retrospectively the prognostic significance of serial renal biopsies in patients with lupus nephritis. Thirty-one patients with lupus nephritis underwent two or more renal biopsies during follow-up. The indications for repeated biopsy were as follows: improvement of renal disease but persistence of nonnephrotic proteinuria (group A, 7 patients); persistent or relapsing nephrotic syndrome (group B, 12 patients); and worsening of renal function (group C, 19 patients). After a median follow-up of 10.5 years, 17 patients reached the end point (persistent doubling of plasma creatinine level). At repeated renal biopsy, there was a correlation between improved clinical and histological features for group A. In these patients, treatment was reduced or stopped successfully. Histological features remained almost unchanged in group B. All patients showed an improvement of proteinuria after reinforcement of therapy. In group C, the worsening of renal function was associated with a variable and clinically unpredictable combination of active and chronic lesions. Only the few patients with an elevated activity index and moderate chronicity index showed a favorable and persistent improvement of renal disease after reinforcement of therapy. At multivariate analysis of clinical and histological data at presentation, only male sex was predictive of an adverse outcome (P = 0.015). At repeated renal biopsy, crescents in more than 30% of glomeruli (P = 0.0009) and chronicity index of 5 or greater (P = 0.00006) were associated with the probability of reaching the end point at multivariate analysis. Repeated renal biopsy may be helpful for establishing the prognosis in patients with lupus nephritis, particularly in the presence of worsening of renal function.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Azathioprine / administration & dosage
  • Biopsy
  • Creatinine / blood
  • Cyclophosphamide / administration & dosage
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Kidney Function Tests*
  • Lupus Nephritis / diagnosis
  • Lupus Nephritis / drug therapy
  • Lupus Nephritis / pathology*
  • Male
  • Methylprednisolone / administration & dosage
  • Prednisolone / administration & dosage
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Prednisolone
  • Creatinine
  • Azathioprine
  • Methylprednisolone