Background: Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus have a spectrum of glomerular disease, but the different patterns of glomerular injury identified within the general category of "severe" lupus glomerulonephritis are responsible for much of the morbidity and mortality in this disease. The glomerular injury patterns seen with severe lupus glomerulonephritis have been separated into distinct histopathologic groups to determine whether they can predict long-term patient outcome.
Methods: We analyzed the clinical follow-up of 85 patients participating in a controlled prospective therapeutic trial for the treatment of severe lupus glomerulonephritis conducted from April 1981 to December 1988, with an average follow-up of 10 years. Patients were classified according to the 1982 World Health Organization classification for lupus glomerulonephritis.
Results: During the course of follow-up [120 +/- 65 (SD) months], 60% of patients with category IV (diffuse proliferative glomerulonephritis) lesions entered a remission compared with only 38% of patients with category III (> or =50%, focal and segmental glomerulonephritis) lesions and 27% of patients with category Vc (> or =50%) and Vd (P < 0.05). Renal survival at 10 years was 75% for those with category IV lesions, 47% for patients with category Vc (> or =50%) and Vd, and 52% for patients with category III (> or =50%) lesions (P < 0.05). Based on multivariate analysis, patients with category III (> or =50%) or Vc (> or =50%) and Vd lesions had a relative risk of progression to end-stage renal disease 2.9 times that of category IV patients (P < 0.01), while the likelihood of entering a remission was 8.2 times greater for category IV patients (P = 0.0001).
Conclusion: The histopathologic categorization among patients with severe lupus glomerulonephritis provides information relevant to their long-term outcome.