Severe infections in plasmapheresis-treated systemic lupus erythematosus

Arthritis Rheum. 1998 Mar;41(3):414-20. doi: 10.1002/1529-0131(199803)41:3<414::AID-ART6>3.0.CO;2-N.


Objective: To assess the risk of infection in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) treated with plasmapheresis in addition to intravenous (I.V.) pulse cyclophosphamide (CYC).

Methods: We searched the records of all our SLE patients for those who had undergone plasmapheresis plus I.V. CYC treatment (n = 9). Consecutive patients with similarly high SLE activity who underwent I.V. CYC therapy but not plasmapheresis were included as controls (n = 12). We evaluated both groups for severe infections, outcome, and confounding clinical variables.

Results: Seven of 9 plasmapheresis-treated patients had serious bacterial or viral infections, including 3 cases of cytomegalovirus infections. Among the 12 patients treated with I.V. CYC alone, only 2 had severe infections (P < 0.01). Three patients in the plasmapheresis group and none in the control group died of infections. Treatment efficacy, however, was similar for both groups.

Conclusion: Among SLE patients treated with plasmapheresis and I.V. CYC, life-threatening bacterial and viral infections and mortality occur more frequently than among patients with similarly active SLE treated with I.V. CYC alone.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacterial Infections / etiology*
  • Bacterial Infections / mortality
  • Bacterial Infections / physiopathology
  • Critical Illness / mortality
  • Cyclophosphamide / administration & dosage
  • Cyclophosphamide / adverse effects
  • Cyclophosphamide / therapeutic use
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / complications*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / therapy*
  • Male
  • Plasmapheresis / adverse effects*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Virus Diseases / etiology*
  • Virus Diseases / mortality
  • Virus Diseases / physiopathology


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Cyclophosphamide