Morbidity associated with long-term methotrexate therapy in juvenile rheumatoid arthritis

J Pediatr. 1992 Mar;120(3):468-73. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(05)80923-0.


To evaluate the adverse effects associated with long-term methotrexate (MTX) therapy in children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, we conducted a retrospective review of 62 patients with polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, treated from 84 to 296 weeks with MTX weekly. Pulmonary function testing was performed before MTX therapy on 46 patients older than 6 years of age; 26 patients had serial pulmonary function testing, and no abnormalities were detected. In all 62 patients, liver function (alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase activity) was monitored every 3 months. Transient liver function abnormalities developed in nine patients during treatment. Twelve patients underwent percutaneous liver biopsies after receiving 815 to 2980 mg of MTX; none had fibrosis or cirrhosis. Macrocytic anemia developed in one child receiving simultaneous long-term trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole therapy and resolved after the trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole was discontinued. No stomatitis or rashes were observed. Six patients were able to discontinue MTX therapy when their disease remitted; 56 continue MTX therapy. No child permanently discontinued MTX therapy because of an adverse effect. These data suggest that MTX may be better tolerated in children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis than in adults with rheumatoid arthritis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arthritis, Juvenile / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methotrexate / adverse effects*
  • Methotrexate / therapeutic use
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors


  • Methotrexate