Purpose: We studied survival rate, prognostic factors, and causes of death in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), particularly focusing on the influence of disease severity.
Patients and methods: A cohort of 207 consecutive Italian patients with SLE were prospectively studied. All prominent clinical and serologic parameters were evaluated and considered as prognostic risk factors. Causes of death were defined on the basis of clinical data and, when available, postmortem examination. Survival was calculated from the time of diagnosis by Kaplan-Meier method.
Results: A total of 17 of 207 patients died; causes of death were active disease manifestations in 35.3% of cases and complication of the disease or its treatment in 64.7% of cases. The survival rates at 5, 10, and 15 years after the diagnosis were 96%, 93% and 76%, respectively. By multivariate analysis of the risk factors, a predictive model consisting of male gender, positive lupus anticoagulant, and "severe" SLE was identified. The survival curve of the patients with severe disease was similar to that of patients with mild disease until 10 to 15 years from the diagnosis. Thereafter the two curves tended to diverge, showing a clear survival decline in patients with severe disease.
Conclusions: Our study confirms the increase of short- and medium-term survival in patients with SLE, but long-term prognosis remains poor in patients with severe SLE manifestations.