Systemic Amyloidosis Recognition, Prognosis, and Therapy: A Systematic Review

JAMA. 2020 Jul 7;324(1):79-89. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.5493.


Importance: Many patients with systemic amyloidosis are underdiagnosed. Overall, 25% of patients with immunoglobulin light chain (AL) amyloidosis die within 6 months of diagnosis and 25% of patients with amyloid transthyretin (ATTR) amyloidosis die within 24 months of diagnosis. Effective therapy exists but is ineffective if end-organ damage is severe.

Objective: To provide evidence-based recommendations that could allow clinicians to diagnose this rare set of diseases earlier and enable accurate staging and counseling about prognosis.

Evidence review: A comprehensive literature search was conducted by a reference librarian with publication dates from January 1, 2000, to December 31, 2019. Key search terms included amyloid, amyloidosis, nephrotic syndrome, heart failure preserved ejection fraction, and peripheral neuropathy. Exclusion criteria included case reports, non-English-language text, and case series of fewer than 10 patients. The authors independently selected and appraised relevant literature.

Findings: There was a total of 1769 studies in the final data set. Eighty-one articles were included in this review, of which 12 were randomized clinical trials of therapy that included 3074 patients, 9 were case series, and 3 were cohort studies. The incidence of AL amyloidosis is approximately 12 cases per million persons per year and there is an estimated prevalence of 30 000 to 45 000 cases in the US and European Union. The incidence of variant ATTR amyloidosis is estimated to be 0.3 cases per year per million persons with a prevalence estimate of 5.2 cases per million persons. Wild-type ATTR is estimated to have a prevalence of 155 to 191 cases per million persons. Amyloidosis should be considered in the differential diagnosis of adult nondiabetic nephrotic syndrome; heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, particularly if restrictive features are present; unexplained hepatomegaly without imaging abnormalities; peripheral neuropathy with distal sensory symptoms, such as numbness, paresthesia, and dysesthesias (although the autonomic manifestations occasionally may be the presenting feature); and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance with atypical clinical features. Staging can be performed using blood testing only. Therapeutic decision-making for AL amyloidosis involves choosing between high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant or bortezomib-based chemotherapy. There are 3 therapies approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for managing ATTR amyloidosis, depending on clinical phenotype.

Conclusions and relevance: All forms of amyloidosis are underdiagnosed. All forms now have approved therapies that have been demonstrated to improve either survival or disability and quality of life. The diagnosis should be considered in patients that have a multisystem disorder involving the heart, kidney, liver, or nervous system.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Benzoxazoles / therapeutic use
  • Dexamethasone / therapeutic use
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Gene Silencing
  • Heart Failure / etiology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Light-chain Amyloidosis / diagnosis*
  • Immunoglobulin Light-chain Amyloidosis / mortality
  • Immunoglobulin Light-chain Amyloidosis / physiopathology
  • Immunoglobulin Light-chain Amyloidosis / therapy
  • Liver Transplantation
  • Melphalan / therapeutic use
  • Prognosis
  • Proteinuria / etiology
  • Stem Cell Transplantation


  • Benzoxazoles
  • Dexamethasone
  • tafamidis
  • Melphalan