Background: Lupus nephritis (LN) remains a severe complication in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Over the last decade, antiphospholipid antibodies have become a part of SLE classification criteria, and awareness of cardiovascular morbidity and its risk factors in SLE has increased. This study investigated the potential effect of these alterations on the presentation and severity of LN.
Methods: This is an observational study of two subsequent SLE inception cohorts based on 1982 American College of Rheumatology (acr) classification criteria (82acr; n=87, enrolled 1978-95) and the updated version in 1997 (97acr: n=62, enrolled 1996-2006). Annual incidence rates (AIR), point prevalence, clinical and histological features, and outcome of LN (defined as proteinuria with urinary casts and/or haematuria) were compared between both cohorts.
Results: Between 1978 and 2006, the AIR for LN decreased from 0.7 to 0.45/100 000, while LN prevalence rose from 7 to 14/100 000. The relative risk reduction in the 97acr for early- and late-onset LN (> 3 months after SLE diagnosis) was 39% and 42%, respectively. Patients developing LN in the 97acr cohort (97LN+; n=11) had similar demographics, more often low avidity anti-dsDNA antibodies (Ab) and/or anti-cardiolipin Ab at SLE diagnosis, lower proteinuria and diastolic blood pressure, and similar histological findings to those in the 83acr cohort (82LN +; n=28). Following LN diagnosis, more 97LN + patients received pulse corticosteroids (55% vs. 7%), anticoagulants (46% vs. 4%) and antihypertensive drugs (46% vs. 11%). Three 82LN+ patients (11%) developed end-stage renal disease versus none in 97LN + during a 10-year follow-up.
Conclusions: Early detection of low avidity anti-dsDNA and antiphospholipid antibodies, probably in combination with early use of protective cardiovascular measures from SLE diagnosis onwards may contribute to reduced incidence and improved renal survival in LN.