Objective: SLE has a relapsing-remitting course with disease activity flares over time. This study aims to identify clinical predictors of SLE flares.
Methods: This prospective cohort study over 24 months included all SLE patients on follow-up at one academic lupus clinic. Flare was defined as an increase in SLEDAI-2K score ≥4 points. Baseline clinical and demographic parameters were compared using survival analysis for time-to-flare outcome with univariate log-rank tests. Variables with significant differences were further evaluated as predictors with multivariate Cox regression models adjusting for potential confounding or contributing factors and hazard ratio (HR) calculation.
Results: A total of 202 SLE patients were included. Over the follow-up period, 1083 visits were documented and 16.8% of patients presented with flares. In multivariate analysis, the following parameters emerged as flare predictors: SLE diagnosis up to 25 years of age (HR = 2.14, P = 0.03), lupus nephritis previous to baseline visit (HR = 4.78, P < 0.0001) and immunosuppressor treatment for severe SLE (HR = 3.22, P < 0.001). Baseline disease activity, disease duration and treatment with prednisone or HCQ were not predictive factors.
Conclusion: Patients with an SLE diagnosis before age 25 years, lupus nephritis or immunosuppressor treatment for severe SLE present greater HRs for flares, suggesting the need for tighter clinical monitoring. Current immunosuppressive strategies seem to be inefficient in providing flare prevention.
Keywords: cohort study; outcomes research; prognosis; prospective study; systemic lupus erythematosus.