A meta-analysis of structural MRI studies of the brain in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

Clin Rheumatol. 2023 Feb;42(2):319-326. doi: 10.1007/s10067-022-06482-8. Epub 2022 Dec 19.


A comprehensive search of published literature in brain volumetry was conducted in three autoimmune diseases - systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and ulcerative colitis (UC) - with the intention of performing a meta-analysis of published data. Due to the lack of data in RA and UC, the reported meta-analysis was limited to SLE. The MEDLINE database was searched for studies from 1988 to March 2022. A total of 175 papers met the initial inclusion criteria, and 16 were included in a random-effects meta-analysis. The reduction in the number of papers included in the final analysis is primarily due to the lack of overlap in measured and reported brain regions. A significantly lower volume was seen in patients with SLE in the hippocampus, corpus callosum, and total gray matter volume measurements as compared to age- and sex-matched controls. There were not enough studies to perform a meta-analysis for RA and UC; instead, we include a summary of published volumetric studies. The meta-analyses revealed structural brain abnormalities in patients with SLE, suggesting that lower global brain volumes are associated with disease status. This volumetric difference was seen in both the hippocampus and corpus callosum and total gray matter volume measurements. These results indicate both gray and white matter involvements in SLE and suggest there may be both localized and global reductions in brain volume.

Keywords: Autoimmune disease; Autoimmunity; MRI; Neuroimaging; Systemic inflammation; Systemic lupus erythematosus.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / complications
  • Autoimmune Diseases* / complications
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / complications
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / diagnostic imaging
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging