Background Although SLE patients are thought to follow different patterns of disease courses, no information is available about the longitudinal disease activity or the number of possible different disease courses. This study sought to: 1) Assess for distinguishable differences in disease activity trajectories in childhood-onset SLE (cSLE) patients; 2) Identify factors predictive of membership in different classes and 3) Assess if different disease activity trajectories are associated with different damage trajectories.
Methods Single-centre longitudinal inception cohort of cSLE patients (onset < 18 years) diagnosed and followed from Jan 1985 to Sep 2011. Paediatric data was obtained from our institutional cSLE database and adult data from the Toronto Lupus database or from rheumatologists’ offices. Longitudinal disease trajectory was constructed using data from every clinic visit in the 1st 10 years after diagnosis. Longitudinal SLE activity is a latent construct that is imperfectly measured with SLE disease activity index 2000 (SLEDAI2K) and prednisone exposure. SLEDAI2K and prednisone use were then jointly modelled in a Bayesian growth mixture model (GMM). Baseline factors were tested for prediction of class membership.
Results 473 patients were included. 82% were female, median age of diagnosis was 14.1 years. There were 11992 visits, 2666 patient years. 67% of the population had transferred to adult care. Mean population SLEDAI2K and prednisone trajectories of cSLE patients showed rapid decline to low activity levels within 2 years after diagnosis. Joint GMM showed 5 latent classes in this cohort of cSLE patients. Class 1 patients (6%) have chronic moderate-high disease activity, class 2 (12%) had moderate initial disease activity and continued moderate long-term prednisone use, class 3 (17%) had initial high disease activity but achieved long-term remission, class 4 (19%) had high initial disease activity but relapsed later, class 5 (45%) had chronic low-grade disease activity. Across all classes, there was chronic use of prednisone (at least 5–10 mg/day) among cSLE patients in the first 10 years after diagnosis. Baseline major organ involvement, ethnicity, age at diagnosis and the number of baseline ACR criteria predicted probability of membership in different classes. Class 1 was associated with the most average damage accrual while class 5 was not associated with significant average damage accrual even after 10 years.
Conclusions cSLE patients could be sub-classified into 5 distinct classes of disease activity trajectories. Baseline and demographic factors predicted membership in the distinct disease classes. Different disease classes were associated with different patterns of damage trajectories.
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