Cerebral and cerebellar volume loss in children and adolescents with systemic lupus erythematosus: a review of clinically acquired brain magnetic resonance imaging

J Rheumatol. 2010 Aug 1;37(8):1768-75. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.090983. Epub 2010 Jun 1.


Objective: Cerebral atrophy is a prominent feature in adults with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). We assessed cerebral and cerebellar volume loss on clinically acquired brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of children and adolescents with SLE.

Methods: We abstracted information on disease course for patients who underwent clinical brain MRI during the period 2002-2008. We completed qualitative assessments of volume loss and measured corpus callosum thickness and ventricular enlargement for patients with lupus and controls.

Results: Forty-nine children underwent brain MRI during the review period due to clinical indications. The lupus cohort was predominantly female and ethnically diverse. Mean age at imaging was 15.3 +/- 2.6 years and mean disease duration was 30.6 +/- 33.3 months. Findings suggestive of cerebral and cerebellar volume loss were seen respectively in 89.8% and 91.8% of lupus patients. Cerebral volume loss was moderate or severe in 26.5% of children. Cerebellar volume loss was moderate in 20.4% of these patients. Linear measurement means reflected corpus callosum thinning and ventricular enlargement in lupus patients. Volume loss was observed in newly diagnosed patients prior to corticosteroid use. Disease duration and corticosteroid use did not predict the severity of volume loss. There were statistically significant differences in linear imaging measurements comparing lupus patients to 14 similar-age controls.

Conclusion: Regional volume loss was observed in most adolescents with lupus undergoing clinical brain MRI scans. As in other pediatric conditions with inflammatory or vascular etiologies, these findings may be reflecting disease-associated neuronal loss and not solely the effects of corticosteroid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Atrophy
  • Brain Diseases / complications
  • Brain Diseases / pathology*
  • Cerebellum / pathology*
  • Cerebrum / pathology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / complications
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Reference Values