Combination therapy of intravenous immunoglobulin and corticosteroid in the treatment of toxic epidermal necrolysis and Stevens-Johnson syndrome: a retrospective comparative study in China

Int J Dermatol. 2009 Oct;48(10):1122-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2009.04166.x.


Background: Toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) and Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) are drug-induced diseases with no well-established treatments. The application of corticosteroid therapy is controversial. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy is emerging as a promising new method for the treatment of these two diseases. The efficacy of combination therapy of IVIG and corticosteroid in the treatment of TEN/SJS has seldom been reported.

Methods: Sixty-five consecutive patients with either TEN or SJS, admitted over a 14-year period from January 1993 to October 2007, were treated with corticosteroid and analyzed retrospectively using SCORTEN, a severity-of-illness scoring system for TEN/SJS prognosis, to evaluate efficacy. For patients admitted after January 2001, additional therapy with a dose of 0.4 g/kg/day of IVIG for 5 days was applied.

Results: In the 45 patients with TEN treated without IVIG, 8.63 patients were expected to die based on the SCORTEN system, but 10 deaths were observed. Standardized mortality ratio (SMR) analysis [(Sigmaobserved deaths/Sigmaexpected deaths) x 100] suggested that patients with TEN treated with systemic corticosteroid were 16% more likely to die than those treated with routine therapy (SMR = 1.16; 95% confidence interval, 0.56-2.13). In the further study of combination therapy, 12 patients with TEN and eight patients with SJS were admitted. There were two deaths in the TEN group and one death in the SJS group, with 3.51 deaths expected on the basis of the SCORTEN system. SMR analysis showed that combination therapy had a tendency to reduce the mortality rate of TEN (SMR = 0.85; 95% confidence interval, 0.18-2.50). Nevertheless, in both the TEN and SJS groups, the difference in mortality rate between the two therapies was not statistically significant (P = 0.651 and P = 1, respectively). In patients with TEN, combination therapy also reduced significantly the time of arrested progression (P = 0.019) and the total hospitalization time (P = 0.043), but could not reduce the time to the tapering of corticosteroid (P = 0.96). In SJS patients, the times of arrested progression and hospitalization were also reduced significantly (P = 0.019 and P = 0.0475, respectively). Likewise, the time to the tapering of corticosteroid was not reduced (P = 0.122).

Conclusion: Combination therapy with corticosteroid and IVIG exhibited a tendency to reduce the mortality rate in comparison with the solo administration of corticosteroid. The decrease in the mortality rate, however, was not statistically significant. Combination therapy also arrested progression earlier and decreased the hospitalization time, meaning that the total dose of corticosteroid may be reduced. Combination therapy, however, did not lead to earlier tapering of corticosteroid. No severe adverse effects of IVIG were found during treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • China
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous / therapeutic use*
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Stevens-Johnson Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Young Adult


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous
  • Immunologic Factors