Acute transverse myelitis and antiphospholipid antibodies in lupus. No evidence for anticoagulation

Eur J Neurol. 2011 Apr;18(4):556-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-1331.2010.03208.x. Epub 2010 Sep 14.


Current views suggest that prothrombotic properties of antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL) have a role in the development of acute transverse myelitis (ATM) in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Consequently, empiric anticoagulation may be included in these patients' treatment. We performed a systemic review of the literature to explore the clinical value of the presence of aPL in patients with lupus myelitis and the possible effectiveness of anticoagulation. We analyzed clinical and laboratory data extracted from published cases of SLE-associated ATM, fulfilling the Transverse Myelitis Consortium Working Group diagnostic criteria, that provided information on aPL. We report on a total of 70 patients. aPL, detected upon ATM onset in 54% of patients, neither predicted the involvement of the thoracic part of the spine, which has been postulated to reflect a predominantly thrombosis-induced injury, nor correlated with relapsing ATM, additional lupus CNS manifestations, or worse clinical outcome. An unfavorable outcome could be predicted by paralysis (P=0.02) and abnormal CSF findings at presentation (P=0.02). Whilst all patients received major immunosuppressive regimens, severe neurologic impairment (estimated Expanded Disability Status Scale score>7) was found primarily in aPL-negative patients (P=0.03). Anticoagulation was more frequently applied in aPL-positive patients (P=0.04), but any additional therapeutic effect was not evident. Detection of circulating aPL at ATM onset appears unreliable to suggest a thrombotic cause and perhaps not enough to dictate therapeutic anticoagulation. Registry creation of ATM in patients with SLE is needed to obtain more definite answers on the role of aPL in this condition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Antiphospholipid / immunology*
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / complications*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Male
  • Myelitis, Transverse / drug therapy
  • Myelitis, Transverse / etiology*
  • Myelitis, Transverse / immunology*
  • Prognosis
  • Thrombosis / complications*


  • Antibodies, Antiphospholipid
  • Anticoagulants