Objective: To determine whether initial damage, disease duration, age, initial health status, average disease activity over the 5 yr or an average medication score covering the follow-up period would predict an increase in damage in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) within the next 5 yr.
Methods: A 5-yr prospective longitudinal study of a cohort of 141 consecutive patients with SLE attending a specialist lupus out-patient clinic in London from their first assessment between July 1994 and February 1995. Disease activity was assessed using the BILAG system, initial health status by the Medical Outcome Survey Short Form 20 with an extra question about fatigue (SF-20+) and damage by the SLICC/ACR Damage Index (SDI). Damage was reassessed 5 yr later. Statistical analysis was carried out using multiple logistic regression analysis (logXact).
Results: One hundred and thirty-three female and eight male SLE patients (97 Caucasians, 16 Afro-Caribbeans, 22 Asians and 6 others) were included, their age at inclusion was 41.1 +/- 12.5 yr and their disease duration 10.2 +/- 6.3 yr. The mean measures at inclusion were: total BILAG 5.2 (range 0-17), total SDI 1.2 (0-7) and medication score 1.2 (0-3). Six patients were lost to follow-up because they had moved. Of the remaining 135 patients total damage had increased in 40 patients and 10 patients had died. At the end of the study, at 4.63 +/- 0.19 yr, the total SDI had increased to 1.6 +/- 1.7. Multiple logistic regression analysis revealed that death and increase in damage were strongly predicted by a high total disease activity over the entire study period (P<0.001) as we had hypothesized. When the total BILAG score was replaced by the average number of A-flares the prediction of accrual of damage during the study period was again highly significant (P = 0.004).
Conclusions: In this first prospective study of its type a highly significant impact of total disease activity, as measured over 5 yr using the BILAG system, on the development of total damage was revealed. Moreover, these results provide further proof of the validity of the SDI and support the BILAG concept of the A-flares.