Estimating glucocorticoid-related morbidity in lupus nephritis using the glucocorticoid toxicity index

Lupus. 2023 Apr;32(4):565-570. doi: 10.1177/09612033231160969. Epub 2023 Feb 24.


Objective: Lupus nephritis (LN) is often treated with high doses of glucocorticoids (GCs). The glucocorticoid toxicity index (GTI) was developed by expert consensus to quantify GC toxicity. To date, the GTI has not been shown to correlate with GC exposure in patients with LN.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study of patients with biopsy-confirmed LN between 2006 and 2016. Cumulative GC exposure and GTI scores were determined via medical record review. Both the aggregate improvement score (GTI-AIS) and the cumulative worsening score (GTI-CWS) were calculated. We performed linear regression to determine the association between GC exposure and GTI scores at 1 year and 5 years following kidney biopsy.

Results: This study included 49 patients with a mean age of 33.3 (SD 9.5) years. Mean GC exposure was 23.0 mg prednisone-equivalents per day through year 1 and 9.9 mg prednisone-equivalents per day through year 5. At 5 years, higher GC exposure was associated with higher GTI-AIS (p < 0.001) and GTI-CWS (p = 0.002), and this association persisted in multivariate analysis adjusting for age, sex, race, induction medication, and nephritis class (p = 0.026 for AIS, p = 0.012 for CWS). At 1 year, GC exposure was not associated with GTI scores (p = 0.70 for AIS; p = 0.58 for CWS).

Conclusion: In this cohort study, the GTI was associated with cumulative steroid exposure at 5 years after diagnosis. In patients with LN, the GTI may serve as a useful outcome measure in future LN trials evaluating the steroid sparing effect of novel therapies.

Keywords: Nephritis; renal lupus; systematic lupus erythematosus.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / drug therapy
  • Lupus Nephritis* / diagnosis
  • Prednisone / adverse effects
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Prednisone