Purpose: To assess the natural history and risk factors for thrombosis in a large cohort of unselected patients with antiphospholipid antibodies.
Patients and methods: Three hundred sixty consecutive patients (118 males, 242 females, median age 39 years [range 2 to 78]) fulfilling the currently accepted criteria for diagnosis of lupus anticoagulant (LAC) (n = 326) and/or raised immunoglobulin G anticardiolipin antibodies (IgG ACA) (n = 185) were collected from 16 Italian institutions and prospectively observed for a median of 3.9 years (range 0.5 to 5). Main endpoints were the occurrence of arterial or venous thrombosis, the outcome of pregnancies, and any severe complications leading to hospitalization or death.
Results: Thirty-four patients developed a thrombotic complication, with a total incidence of 2.5% patient-years. Multivariate logistic regression analysis identified two independent risk factors for thrombotic events: a previous thrombosis (RR 4.9; 95% CI, 1.76 to 13.7; P < 0.005) and IgG ACA titer above 40 units (RR 3.66; 95% CI, 1.24 to 10.8; P < 0.01). A total of 28 pregnancies were observed in 25 women and 11 (39%) were abortive. Adverse pregnancy outcomes were significantly more frequent in women with a history of miscarriage or vascular occlusion (9/16, 56%) than in asymptomatic women (2/12, 17%) (P = 0.035). Four patients developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma during the follow-up. Eighteen patients died. Vascular events and hematological malignancies represented the most frequent causes of death (n = 5 for each).
Conclusions: The present study shows that: (a) previous thrombosis and ACA titer > 40 U are independent predictors of thrombosis; (b) history of miscarriage or vascular disease is significantly associated with adverse pregnancy outcome; (c) hematological malignancies can develop during follow-up in patients with antiphospholipid antibodies.