Purpose: We assessed the outcome of 31 patients with severe neuropsychiatric (NP) systemic lupus erythematosus (NPSLE) treated with intravenous cyclophosphamide (IV-CYC), and identified clinical predictors of response to therapy.
Methods: The authors performed a retrospective chart review and classified patients by NP manifestation and response to therapy as measured by serial anatomic imaging and neurodiagnostic studies coupled with clinical assessment of improvement.
Results: Neuropsychiatric manifestations occurred with the following frequencies: organic brain syndromes (OBS) 55%, stroke syndromes 35%, peripheral or mononeuropathy 32%, seizures 29%, psychiatric symptoms 26%, transverse myelitis 16%, cranial neuropathies 13%, other 16%. Most patients had multiple NP manifestations, with a median of two. Ninety percent of patients had failed therapy with corticosteroids with or without cytotoxic drugs prior to treatment with IV-CYC. Eight patients received synchronous plasmapheresis along with IV-CYC. After treatment with IV-CYC, NP deficits substantially improved in 61% (group I), stabilized in 29% (group S), and progressively deteriorated in 10% (group P). Patients in group I had significantly fewer NP manifestations than combined group S+P, two versus four, and a lower frequency of OBS, 37% versus 83%.
Conclusion: Intravenous cyclophosphamide appears to be an effective treatment for some patients with severe NPSLE refractory to other forms of therapy. Higher number of NP manifestations and presence of OBS may predict poor outcome and identify a group of patients for whom early aggressive therapy may be indicated.