Purpose: We sought to identify the predictors of clinical outcome and of the evolution of cerebral abnormalities in patients with neuropsychiatric systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Subjects and methods: Thirty-two patients with SLE (including 14 with the antiphospholipid syndrome) who had been hospitalized with primary neuropsychiatric disease were observed prospectively for at least 2 years. Laboratory and clinical characteristics and data from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies obtained during the hospitalization and 2 years later were evaluated. We ascertained nonreversible or new MRI changes and clinical outcomes, including neuropsychiatric events, during follow-up.
Results: Cranial MRI scans on admission were abnormal in 26 (81%) of the 32 patients. Patients with the antiphospholipid syndrome were more likely to have focal cerebral white matter lesions (odds ratio [OR] = 12, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.0 to 72). After 2 years, neuropsychiatric deficits substantially improved in 22 (69%) of the patients, stabilized in 6 (19%), and deteriorated in 4 (12%). The number of prior neuropsychiatric events was associated with persistent MRI lesions (OR = 4.8 per each event, 95% CI: 1.1 to 21) and unfavorable clinical outcome (OR = 4.3 per each event, 95% CI: 1.4 to 13) at 2 years. The antiphospholipid syndrome also predicted an unfavorable clinical outcome at 2 years (OR = 11, 95% CI: 1.7 to 65).
Conclusions: Among patients with SLE who have neuropsychiatric disease, prior neuropsychiatric events and the antiphospholipid syndrome increase the risk of adverse outcomes.