Lupus mastitis and antiphospholipid syndrome treated with anticoagulation and immunosuppression: a case report

J Med Case Rep. 2023 Aug 9;17(1):356. doi: 10.1186/s13256-023-04054-1.


Background: Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that can have cutaneous and systemic manifestations. Lupus panniculitis, also known as lupus mastitis, is a subset of chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus that involves inflammation of the subcutaneous fat. The pathogenesis of lupus mastitis is not fully understood. Diagnosis involves a combination of skin manifestations, imaging, and pathologic confirmation. Treatment typically includes steroids and antimalarials, with more severe disease requiring additional immunosuppressive medications. This report highlights a case of lupus mastitis treated with rituximab and a possible relationship between this disease process and thrombotic disease.

Case presentation: A 48-year-old African American female with systemic lupus erythematosus and antiphospholipid syndrome presented with new breast lesion. Mammography revealed calcifications and increased density with coarse trabecular pattern. Breast biopsy showed features of cutaneous lupus and occlusive vasculopathy. The patient was diagnosed with lupus mastitis and treated with anticoagulation, rituximab, mycophenolate mofetil, and quinacrine with resolution of her symptoms.

Conclusion: This patient experienced improvement in her breast symptoms with combination therapy including rituximab. There are only two other cases reported in literature of patients with lupus mastitis responding to rituximab, highlighting the possible role of B cell depleting therapy for those who have contraindications to standard treatments for lupus mastitis. While the pathophysiology of lupus mastitis is thought to be immune driven, some literature suggests that associated thrombosis commonly seen may be due to a physiologic overlap similar to antiphospholipid syndrome. The possible relationship between antiphospholipid syndrome and lupus mastitis and the use of antiplatelet and anticoagulation therapy is discussed and may warrant further investigation.

Keywords: Antiphospholipid syndrome; Breast lesion; Case report; Lupus erythematosus panniculitis; Lupus mastitis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome* / complications
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome* / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / complications
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / diagnosis
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic* / drug therapy
  • Mastitis* / diagnosis
  • Mastitis* / etiology
  • Mastitis* / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Rituximab / therapeutic use


  • Rituximab
  • Anticoagulants