Pediatric systemic lupus erythematosus patients in South Africa have high prevalence and severity of cardiac and vascular manifestations

Pediatr Rheumatol Online J. 2019 Nov 26;17(1):76. doi: 10.1186/s12969-019-0382-x.


Background: Pediatric onset of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is associated with major organ involvement, and African patients tend to develop more aggressive disease than patients of European descent. Although cardiovascular involvement is common in pediatric SLE, there are few published reports on the subject. This study describes the frequency and characteristics of cardiac and vascular manifestations of pediatric SLE in a multi-ethnic South African cohort.

Methods: Demographic, clinical, and echocardiographic data were collected from pediatric SLE patients at two centers in Cape Town, South Africa. At the time of investigation, this cohort consisted of 93 participants diagnosed with SLE according to international classification criteria prior to the age of 19. Individuals with cardiac and/or vascular involvement were identified by retrospective chart review. Cardiac manifestations were defined as presence of pericardial effusion, myocarditis, cardiomyopathy, cardiac failure, Libman-Sacks endocarditis, myocardial infarction, and arrhythmia. Vascular manifestations included deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, sinus thrombosis, stroke, critical limb ischemia, cerebral vasculitis and systemic vasculitis. Statistical analysis was performed using R (v3.4.1).

Results: Cardiac and vascular involvement was present in 47% of the cohort. Previous studies have reported prevalence of 5%-50%. Demographic features of those with cardiac/vascular involvement did not differ from the overall cohort. Echocardiographic data were available for 23 participants. The most common cardiac manifestations were pericardial effusion (n = 24) and cardiac failure (n = 8), while the most common vascular manifestations were cerebral vasculitis (n = 9), stroke (n = 7), and pulmonary embolism (n = 7). Cardiovascular manifestations were frequently severe; one third of pericardial effusion cases required intervention, including three cases of cardiac tamponade. Cardiac and vascular involvement conferred an increased risk of mortality (31.1% versus 10.4%).

Conclusions: Cardiac and vascular involvement were highly prevalent in this South African cohort. The mortality rate was high, and severe manifestations were frequent. Prospective research is needed to improve knowledge of pediatric SLE in Africa and to improve outcomes for this high-risk population.

Keywords: Africa; Cardiovascular disease; Echocardiography; Global health; Lupus; Pediatric systemic lupus erythematosus.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Echocardiography
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Heart Diseases / epidemiology
  • Heart Diseases / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / complications
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / pathology*
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Vascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Vascular Diseases / etiology*