Significance of a positive antinuclear antibody test in a pediatric population

Am J Dis Child. 1983 Nov;137(11):1103-6. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.1983.02140370063021.


Clinical and laboratory findings in 138 children seen during a ten-year period with a positive antinuclear antibody (ANA) test were reviewed. Two thirds (91 of 138) of the patients had specific autoimmune or rheumatic diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (n = 37), juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (n = 33), Sjögren's syndrome (n = 9), mixed connective tissue disease (n = 7), dermatomyositis (n = 3), and discoid lupus (n = 2). Another 27 patients had symptoms of autoimmune disease but did not fit criteria for specific disorders. Nine patients with IgA deficiency had a positive ANA test but did not have symptomatic autoimmune disease. Ten children had a positive ANA test in association with infections, mainly viral, and one had leukemia. Because most children with a positive ANA test had readily diagnosable autoimmune disorders, pediatric patients with a positive ANA on repeated testing should undergo clinical and laboratory studies for autoimmune or rheumatic disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / analysis*
  • Arthritis, Juvenile / diagnosis
  • Autoimmune Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Leukemia / immunology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sjogren's Syndrome / diagnosis


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear