Objective: Peripheral neuropathy (PN) is reported to occur in 5-27% of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) mostly as a length-dependent sensorimotor axonopathy. Studies over time have not been performed. Design - Longitudinal study.
Subjects and methods: Thirty-three Caucasian SLE patients consented to participate in the study and were subjected to clinical examination, laboratory tests, and nerve conduction velocity (NCV) studies. At the follow-up 7 years later, 7 patients (21%) were dead, 4 refused to participate, and 2 did not want to perform NCV studies. Twenty patients were thus available for longitudinal study.
Results: When all SLE patients were considered on a group basis at follow-up, 8 (33%) out of 24 NCV parameters showed significant deterioration despite correction for time, while 16 (67%) were unchanged. Analysis of change from baseline showed that, except for F-responses, several NCV changes were highly dependent (negative regression coefficients) on baseline levels at start of study. No demographic, laboratory, or disease associated quantitative factor was associated with these changes in NCV parameters over time. Nor was a consistent effect on NCV parameters from any qualitative demographic or disease associated factor confirmed by Repeated Measures ANOVA analyses.
Conclusions: A modest progressive neuropathic process exists in patients with SLE. Important is also the finding that, over time, the abnormalities of NCV parameters fluctuate in the individual patients, and the impairments are not necessarily irreversible. This study also shows no association to medication, demographic-, or other disease associated factors.