Myelopathy is a rare but severe neurological manifestation of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) with a high morbidity. The factors that contribute to prognosis are unknown. In this study, 14 patients with lupus myelopathy (LM) from our centre were retrospectively studied. Another 23 patients with other neuropsychiatric SLE (NPSLE) features were enrolled as a comparison group. The morbidity of LM was evaluated by the ASIA Impairment Scale. The clinical and serological characteristics and prognostic factors for LM were investigated. The age, gender, duration of SLE, non-CNS disease activity and autoantibody profile in patients with LM was not different in the NPSLE cohort. A relatively low prevalence of anti-phospholipid antibodies (aPL) in LM sera compared to NPSLE (28.6% vs 52.2%, P = 0.19) was observed. Longitudinal lesion detected by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was identified in 33.3% of patients with LM, whereas 50% showed focal speckle-like lesions. The morbidity of LM is 50%. Muscle strength of grade 3 or higher on admission was a strong indicator for a better prognosis (P = 0.006), whereas other parameters including longitudinal lesion, sensory deficit level, disease activity and aPL did not discriminate good from poor outcome in LM. Early aggressive immunosuppressive therapy (within 2 weeks of onset of myelopathy) tend to associate with a favourable outcome (P = 0.07).