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EULAR publishes recommendations for women with lupus


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EULAR publishes recommendations for women with lupus


A team of EULAR researchers published recommendations for health issues and family planning for women with lupus or antiphospholipid syndrome.

Laura Andreoli, PhD, in the Department of Clinical and Experimental Sciences at the University of Brescia in Italy, and colleagues performed a systematic review of evidence and compiled questions and expert opinions to reach a consensus. According to a published extended report, they made the following recommendations for women with lupus or antiphospholipid syndrome:

  • family planning should be discussed after disease diagnosis;
  • most women can have successful pregnancies, and steps can be taken to reduce adverse maternal or fetal outcomes;
  • risk stratification includes disease activity, autoantibody profile, previous vascular morbidity, previous pregnancy morbidity, hypertension and drug use — with an emphasis on the use of hydroxychloroquine and anti-platelets or anti-coagulants;
  • for patients with stable and inactive disease and a low risk for thrombosis, hormonal contraception and menopause replacement therapy can be used;
  • fertility preservation with gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogues should be considered before use of alkylating agents;
  • assisted reproduction techniques are safe for patients with stable and inactive disease;
  • anticoagulants or low-dose aspirin should be given to patients with positive antiphospholipid antibodies;
  • assessment of disease activity, renal function and serological markers is important to diagnose disease flares and monitor adverse obstetrical results;
  • fetal monitoring includes Doppler ultrasonography and fetal biometry — especially in the third trimester — to screen for placental insufficiency and fetuses that are small given gestational age;
  • gynecological malignancy screens are similar to that of the general population, but with increased vigilance for cervical premalignant lesions if patients exposed to immunosuppressive drugs; and
  • the human papillomavirus vaccine can be given in women with stable and inactive disease. – by Will Offit

Disclosure : The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

  • This helpful review from EULAR represents a paradigm shift in the management of reproductive health in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). We as physicians can ensure patients with SLE achieve healthy pregnancies starting with knowledge of contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and appropriate prenatal risk stratification. With wider availability of varied contraception methods, we can offer IUDs, particularly non-hormonal copper, to all SLE patients of reproductive age.  While hormonal contraception methods, such as oral contraceptive pills and patches, have been shown to be safe and effective in patients with stable disease and no APL antibodies, these methods should be used with caution in patients with increased thrombotic risk. In women who wish to become pregnant, fertility counseling should be offered with special attention to treatments which may limit fertility, including alkylating agents, and need to delay pregnancy due to disease activity. If alkylating agents cannot be avoided, preservation of fertility techniques, such as administration of gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogues can be considered.  Importantly, SLE patients without risk factors such as active disease (including nephritis), antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, and Ro antibodies most often have healthy pregnancies. Strategies to prevent pregnancy complications include ensuring 6 disease-inactive prenatal months, continuing hydroxychloroquine during pregnancy, and low dose aspirin particularly in antiphospholipid antibody (APL) positive patients. Perinatal SLE may be managed using low-dose oral glucocorticoids, azathioprine or calcineurin inhibitors. APL-positive patients should get ultrasounds and biometric parameters, particularly during the third trimester to screen for placental insufficiency and small for gestational age fetuses. Ro-positive patients should be screened for fetal congenital heart block in the second trimester. Emerging evidence suggests hydroxychloroquine may significantly reduce CHB risk particularly in Ro-positive mothers with prior affected pregnancies. Finally, apart from cervical dysplasia due to human papillomavirus (HPV), gynecological malignancies do not have increased prevalence in SLE, therefore screening should follow age appropriate protocols. All young women with SLE should be offered HPV vaccination.
    • Ashira D. Blazer, MD
    • Instructor of Medicine
      Division of Rheumatology
      NYU Langone Medical Center
      New York
  • Disclosures: Blazer reports no relevant financial disclosures.
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