Objective: To describe the causes of death in a cohort of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and to determine if the major causes of death differ according to patient age, sex, race, socioeconomic status, and the duration of SLE.
Methods: We examined survival in a cohort of 408 patients with SLE. During a median of 11 years of followup, 144 patients died. The cause of death was determined for 134 patients (93%).
Results: SLE was the most common cause of death, occurring in 49 patients (34%), followed by infection (n = 32; 22%), cardiovascular disease (n = 23; 16%), cerebrovascular disease (n = 8; 6%), and cancer (n = 8; 6%). Deaths due to SLE and due to infections were more common among younger patients, and deaths due to cancer were more common among older patients. Although the risk of death due to SLE was greatest during the first 3 years after diagnosis, deaths due to SLE occurred throughout the course of disease.
Conclusion: In this study of patients with SLE who were followed up for an extended period of time beginning soon after diagnosis, SLE was the most common cause of death, and deaths due to SLE occurred throughout the course of illness.