Background: Lupus nephritis (LN) is a serious manifestation of systemic lupus erythematosus that can be fatal if left un- treated. The causes and prognostic predictors of mortality in LN have been well studied in developed countries but evidence is lacking for developing countries. The objective of this study was to investigate the causes and predictors of mortality in a cohort of Malaysian patients with biopsy-proven LN. Methods: We retrospectively studied all patients with biopsy-proven LN treated in Sarawak General Hospital during the period of 2000–15. Demographic data, clinical features and outcomes were collected. Cox regression analysis was carried out to determine the independent predictors of mortality. Results: There was a total of 250 patients with 259 renal biopsies available for our analysis. Our patients were of multi- ethnic origins with a female predominance (90%). Their mean 6 standard deviation age was 37.7 6 12.8 years. The patients had a mean disease duration of 135.6 6 81.9 months. Nephrotic syndrome was the most common presentation (29.6%) and acute renal failure was evident at initial presentation in 16% of patients. Class IV LN was the predominant biopsy class within the cohort (66.8%). The majority of patients achieved remission (81.2%) and had normal renal function (83.9%) at the last follow-up. The 5-, 10-, 15- and 20-year survival rates for our cohort were 93%, 88%, 82% and 77%, respectively. There were 37 deaths (14.8%), of which the main causes were: infection and ﬂare (52.7%), infection alone (25.0%) and other causes (22.3%). Independent predictors of mortality in our cohort of LN patients were: the presence of acute kidney injury at pres- entation [hazard ratio (HR) 3.41; conﬁdence interval (CI) 1.50–7.76], failure to achieve remission at 1-year post-induction therapy (HR 2.99; CI 1.35–6.65) and non-compliance with treatment (HR 1.89; CI 1.22–2.96). Age, ethnicity, class of LN and type of immunosuppressant used were not predictive of mortality. Conclusions: Survival and renal outcomes in our LN cohort were comparable to most LN studies reported worldwide. Both ﬂare and infection remained the main causes of death. The presence of acute renal failure at presentation, failure to achieve remission at 1 year post-treatment and non-compliance with treatment were independent prognostic predictors of mortality in LN. Key words: dialysis, lupus nephritis, mortality, outcome, systemic lupus erythematosus Received: March 12, 2017. Editorial decision: May 22, 2017 V C The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of ERA-EDTA. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact email@example.com Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/ckj/article-abstract/11/1/56/3977774 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018 Mortality in biopsy-proven lupus nephritis | 57 angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors were given as and Introduction when needed. Non-compliance was defined by documentation Lupus nephritis (LN) is a severe manifestation of systemic lupus within the medical records of any non-adherence to medical erythematosus (SLE) with significant morbidity and mortality. therapy during the study period. LN is reported to affect approximately 60% of SLE patients, with Response to therapy was assessed at 1-year post-induction 10% progressing to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) [1, 2]. Asians therapy and again at the final follow-up. Partial remission was have been reported as having a higher incidence of LN . defined as a stabilization (625%) or improvement of serum cre- Survival in LN has shown marked improvement over the atinine plus a 50% decrease in uPCR, proteinuria <3 g/day and past 50 years. With the advent of advanced therapies, the 5-year a change from active to inactive urinary sediment. Complete re- survival rate of LN patients has shown continuous improve- mission was defined as return of serum creatinine to previous ment from 44% in 1953–69, 82% in 1990–95, to nearly 96% today baseline, plus a decline in the uPCR to <500 mg/g (<50 mg/ [4–6]. Prognosis of LN has improved over the past few decades mmol) . Remission status (complete or partial remission) in industrialized countries but the outlook for developing coun- was assessed based on serum creatinine level at 1-year post- tries is less optimistic. The causes and prognostic predictors of induction therapy. mortality in LN have been well studied in developed countries The primary outcome was mortality due to any cause. The but evidence is lacking in developing countries. secondary outcome was ESRD, defined as dialysis dependence This study aimed to evaluate the causes of mortality in LN for >3 months. Data were collected until either the patients’ patients and to investigate the predictors of mortality within a final follow-up or until 31 December 2015, whichever occurred cohort of Malaysian patients with biopsy-proven LN. later. Risk factors for poor outcome (mortality or ESRD) were determined and hazard ratios (HR) were calculated. Analysis was performed using SPSS version 10.0, (SPSS, Materials and methods Chicago, IL, USA). Results have been presented as frequencies and percentages for categorical variables and as means and This study was a retrospective review of all biopsy-proven LN standard deviations for continuous variables. Patient and renal patients treated at the Sarawak General Hospital Department of survival patterns of the study population were analysed and Medicine over a 15-year period (1 January 2000 to 31 December survival curves were constructed using the Kaplan–Meier 2015). Sarawak General Hospital is a tertiary public hospital pro- method. The risk factors associated with mortality and ESRF viding nephrology and rheumatology services in Sarawak. were assessed using multivariate Cox regression analysis ad- All biopsy-proven LN cases were identified using outpatient justed for sex and age at diagnosis. A two-tailed P < 0.05 was records located at the nephrology and rheumatology clinics. used as the threshold for significance. The diagnosis of SLE was made according to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) classification . LN was classi- fied according to the nomenclature of the International Society Results of Nephrology and Renal Pathology . Demographics of pa- tients, date of SLE diagnosis, number of ACR criteria present Patient characteristics and comorbidities including hypertension, diabetes mellitus A total of 250 patients with 259 renal biopsies were available for and dyslipidaemia were collected. Clinical presentation of LN, analysis. Nine patients had repeat renal biopsies during the laboratory investigations and renal biopsy results were also study period. The earliest recorded renal biopsy was done in collected. 1982 and the last in 2014. The majority of patients (92.4%) ful- Patients were divided according to the clinical presentation filled the ACR criteria for SLE. Our patients were of multi-ethnic of LN: nephrotic syndrome, nephritic syndrome, mixed neph- origins with a female predominance (225 females versus 25 rotic and nephritic syndrome, proteinuria, and mixed protein- males). The patients had a mean age of 37.7 6 12.8 years. The uria and haematuria. Renal function was measured using mean age at SLE diagnosis was 26.9 6 11.5 years (range 3– serum creatinine, which was ascertained from the patient re- 64.5 years) and the mean disease duration was 135.6 6 cords. Patients were divided into groups based upon the pres- 81.9 months as illustrated in Table 1. In all, 42 patients were ence or absence of acute kidney injury (AKI) at presentation . diagnosed as having SLE before the age of 17 years whilst 11 Urinary protein creatinine ratio (uPCR) was used to assess the patients had elderly onset SLE (defined as onset after age 50). level of proteinuria and haematuria was assessed using Only nine patients had antiphospholipid syndrome. urinalysis. The time interval between the diagnosis of SLE and LN was IV methyprednisolone pulses (0.5–1 g/day for 3 successive 19.0 6 37.4 months (range 0–216 months). However, LN was evi- days) followed by high-dose oral prednisolone of 0.5–1 mg/kg/ dent at the time of SLE diagnosis in 139 patients (56.3%). The day was the standard induction therapy for severe LN cases in extrarenal manifestations in our patients were: mucocutaneous this centre. In addition to corticosteroids, patients with Class III lesions in 151 (60.6%), haematological in 136 (54.4%) and arth- or Class IV LN were given induction immunosuppressive treat- ritis in 91 (36.4%) patients. Serositis was present in 39 (15.6%) pa- ment that comprised of either cyclophosphamide [National tients and neurological manifestations were present in 35 Institutes of Health (NIH) regime or Euro-Lupus regime] or (14.0%) patients. Anti-nuclear antibody was positive in 232 mycophenolate mofetil, followed by maintenance immunosup- (92.8%) patients and anti-dsDNA was positive in 169 (67.6%) pa- pression using low-dose prednisolone and either azathioprine tients. Low complement levels were found in 32% of patients. or mycophenolate mofetil. Patients with mixed Class III þ Class V received treatment for Class III and Class IV þ Class V LN were treated as Class IV. Azathioprine (2–3 mg/kg) was used in Clinical presentation Classes II and V. Class V LN with severe proteinuria was treated with mycophenolate mofetil, cyclosporine A or both. All pa- Nephrotic syndrome was the most frequent clinical presenta- tients received hydroxychloroquine at a dose of 200–400 mg/day tion [74 (29.6%)] of LN in our patients followed by mixed unless contraindicated. Antihypertensive agents, diuretics and nephrotic/nephritic syndrome [64 (25.6%)] and proteinuria Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/ckj/article-abstract/11/1/56/3977774 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018 58 | C.L. Teh et al. Table 1. Demographic characteristics of patients (N ¼ 250) Table 3. Maintainance therapy for LN according to LN class Age (years) 37.7 6 12.8 Maintainance Sex (male/female), n (%) 25/225 (10/90.0) LN class MMF Aza CSA MMF þ CSA Pred Aza þ CSA Total Ethnicity, n (%) Chinese 108 (43.2) 10 01 0 0 0 1 Malay 70 (28.0) 2 0 20 1 0 5 1 27 Iban 43 (17.2) 35 80 0 4 0 17 Bidayuh 20 (8.0) 4 59 67 2 4 18 0 150 Others 9 (3.6) 5 3 15 4 5 5 1 33 Years between SLE and LN diagnosis (months) 19.0 6 37.4 60 00 0 2 0 2 Duration of follow-up (months) 135.6 6 81.9 Total 67 110 8 9 34 2 230 Lupus nephritis class, n (%) I 1 (0.4) MMF, mycophenolate mofetil; Aza, azathioprine; CSA, cyclosporine A; MMF þ II 28 (11.2) CSA, mycophenolate mofetil plus cyclosporine A; Pred, prednisolone alone; AZA III 17 (6.8) þ CSA, azathioprine plus cyclosporine A. IV 167 (66.8) V 35 (14.0) Class III). The NIH regime consisted of induction therapy using VI 2 (0.8) monthly cyclophosphamide infusion at 0.75–1 g/m for Hypertension, n (%) 136 (54.4) 6 months. The mean total dose of cyclophosphamide received Antiphospholipid syndrome, n (%) 9 (3.6) by patients on the NIH regime was 4.46 g. Only 22 patients with Values are represented as mean 6 standard deviation, unless otherwise mentioned. Class IV and 1 patient with Class III received cyclophosphamide per Euro-Lupus regime, with a standard dose of 500 mg every 2 weeks for 3 months. A total of 17 Class IV patients and 3 Class Table 2. Induction therapy for LN according to LN class III patients received mycophenolate mofetil with a mean daily dose of 1.8 g. The mean duration of induction therapy in this pa- Induction tient cohort was 5.35 months. LN Aza þ During the last follow-up, the majority of our patients were class NIH Euro-Lupus MMF Aza CSA Oralcyclo CSA Pred Total on hydroxychloroquine [238 (95.6%)]. The immunosuppressants used were: azathioprine [92 (36.9%)], mycophenolate mofetil [75 10 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 (30.0%)], cyclosporine A [38 (15.3%)] and cyclophosphamide [11 2 0 0 0 20 1 0 0 7 28 (4.4%)]. A total of 169 (67.9%) patients were still on prednisolone. 313 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 17 Non-compliance with treatment was documented for 33 pa- 4 127 22 17 0 0 1 0 0 167 tients (13.2%). 5 0 0 9 14 4 0 1 7 35 60 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 Total 140 23 29 34 6 1 1 16 250 Outcome The 5-, 10-, 15- and 20-year survival rates of our cohort were Euro-Lupus, Euro-Lupus regime; MMF, mycophenolate mofetil; Aza, azathio- 93%, 88%, 82% and 77%, respectively. There were a total of 37 prine; CSA, cyclosporine A; Oralcyclo, oral cyclophosphamide; Aza þ CSA, aza- deaths (14.8%) with the main causes being infection and flare thioprine plus cyclosporine A; Pred, prednisolone alone. [20 (54.0%)] and infection alone [10 (27.0%)]. Seven (19.0%) pa- tients died from other causes, of which three died from stroke, [46 (18.4%)]. The remaining patients presented with nephritic one died of lung cancer, one due to a motor vehicle accident, syndrome [43 (17.2%)] and mixed proteinuria and haematuria one from burns and one due to pulmonary hypertension. Five of [23 (9.2%)]. these seven patients had a disease duration in excess of 5 years. A total of 142 patients had normal renal function at initial In all, 16 patients (43.2%) died within the first 5 years of presentation. In all, 40 (16.0%) had AKI Stages 2 and 3 at presen- disease onset due to both flare of LN and infection. All of the tation while 68 had AKI Stage 1. Hypertension was present in patients had septicaemic shock for which they received broad- 136 (54.4%) LN patients during their initial presentation. spectrum antibiotics and treatment in intensive care. The or- Class IV [167 (66.8%)] was the most common LN class identi- ganisms isolated from patients with sepsis included fied in this cohort followed by Class V [35 (14.0%)] and Class II Streptococcus pyogenes (two patients), Streptococcus pneumonia [28 (11.2%)]. Of the nine patients who underwent repeated renal (one patient), Staphylococcus aureus (one patient), Escherichia coli biopsies, four patients showed transformation to Class IV LN. (one patient), Salmonella typhi (one patient) and Pseudomonas aeroginosa (one patient). Age, gender, ethnicity, disease duration, class of LN, treat- Treatment ment given, presence of hypertension and complement levels Induction and maintenance therapies for the patients are illus- were not predictive of mortality for this cohort. The independ- trated by Tables 2 and 3. In all, 114 patients (45.8%) received IV ent predictors of mortality identified for this cohort of LN pa- methyprednisolone pulses followed by oral prednisolone of 0.5– tients were: the presence of AKI at presentation [HR 3.41; 1 mg/kg/day. The remaining 136 (54.2%) patients were treated confidence interval (CI) 1.50–7.76], failure to achieve either com- with oral prednisolone 1–2 mg/kg/day alone for 1–2 months dur- plete or partial remission at 1-year post-induction therapy (HR ing the induction period. The majority of patients with LN Class 2.99; CI 1.35–6.65) and non-compliance with treatment (HR 1.89; IV (89.2%) and LN Class III (82.4%) received cyclophosphamide CI 1.22–2.96) as illustrated by Table 4. Figure 1 shows the sur- as induction therapy. Most of these patients received cyclophos- vival patterns according to the presence or absence of AKI at phamide as per the NIH regime (76.0% of Class IV and 76.2% of presentation. Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/ckj/article-abstract/11/1/56/3977774 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018 Mortality in biopsy-proven lupus nephritis | 59 Table 4. Multivariate analysis of the risk factors for mortality in Discussion patients with lupus nephritis This study found that the majority of LN patients in our 95% CI centre were young females with Class IV LN. LN was preva- lent at thetimeofSLE diagnosisin morethanhalfofthe Risk factors HR Lower Upper P-value cases, a figure much higher than others previously reported Age 0.997 0.962 1.034 0.886 in the literature [1–3, 11]. Ethnic differences in disease ex- Gender 1.630 0.494 5.371 0.422 pression have most likely contributed to the increased inci- Ethnic group 1.308 0.996 1.716 0.053 dence of LN. Clinicians need to be vigilant in monitoring the AKI 3.414 1.502 7.757 0.003 renal function and urinalysis in every SLE patient so as to Hypertension 0.816 0.354 2.265 0.816 diagnose LN earlier on. LN class 1.210 0.659 2.221 0.539 The 5-, 10-, 15- and 20-year survival rates of 93%, 88%, 82% Induction therapy 0.866 0.669 1.120 0.272 and 77%, respectively, for these patients were comparable to Failure to achieve 2.994 1.348 6.647 0.007 survival rates previously reported in the literature [6, 12, 13]. remission at 1 year Improved socio-economic conditions, earlier diagnosis, modern Non-compliance 1.898 1.216 2.964 0.005 immunosuppressive therapies and better supportive care have increased the survival rates in LN patients, irrespective of diag- nosis and class. In contrast to other studies from well-developed countries [5, 6, 11–14], the main causes of death among these patients were flare of LN and concomitant infection. Both of these causes contributed to >50% of deaths. Infection alone contributed to another 25% deaths for this cohort. The majority of deaths dur- ing the first 5 years of disease were from flare of LN and infec- tions. Our findings corroborate studies from other developing countries [15–18] showing that infection remains the main cause of death in patients with severe active LN. Control of ac- tive LN, prevention and treatment of infection remain the main therapeutic challenges in LN patients within developing countries. Cardiovascular complications and malignancy have been re- ported as emerging causes of mortality in LN [5, 11]. However, we only found three deaths due to stroke and one death due to lung cancer in our centre. Early mortality due to active LN com- plicated by infection remained the primary cause of deaths in this cohort. Multiple demographic, clinical and laboratory variables have been associated with poor outcome in LN. Age, gender, ethni- city, disease duration, uncontrolled hypertension, anaemia, ele- vated serum creatinine, high rate of decline in glomerular filtration rate and chronic renal scarring have all been associ- ated with poor outcome in LN [12–14]. Attainment of a response or remission in proteinuria is the Fig. 1. Survival patterns according to the status of renal function at ultimate aim of treatment in LN. Failure to achieve remission at presentation. 1-year post-induction therapy has been found to be the stron- Subgroup analysis of the 37 deaths showed that different gest negative prognostic factor amongst our LN patients. This is treatment modalities were not predictive of death due to infec- in keeping with previous studies showing that patients who fail tion. Neither usage of methylprednisolone nor different im- to achieve remission have poorer outcomes. Long-term follow- munosuppressants were predictive of death due to infection. up of patients in the Euro-Lupus Nephritis Trial showed that A total of 173 (81.2%) patients were in complete remission early response to therapy at 6 months (defined as a decrease in during their last follow-up. At the end of study period, 16 pa- serum creatinine level and proteinuria <1 g/24 h) was the best tients showed progression of LN, while 12 had relapsed LN. predictor of good long-term renal outcome . Proteinuric re- Partial remission had occurred in 12 patients. mission is an independent predictive prognostic marker of good The renal survival rates at 5-, 10-, 15- and 20 years were 97%, renal survival and mortality, regardless of the interval from 93%, 88% and 86%, respectively. In all, 201 patients (94.4%) re- biopsy to remission, recurrence of proteinuria after remis- mained dialysis-free while 12 patients were in ESRD. Seven pa- sion, renal function status at remission or haematuria remis- tients were on haemodialysis, four were on peritoneal dialysis sion [20, 21]. and only one patient received renal transplant. Table 5 shows The presence of AKI at presentation is also a poor prognostic the independent predictors of ESRD in this cohort of LN patients factor in our patients. Previous studies have shown that poor were: failure to achieve remission 1 year post-induction therapy renal function at presentation is associated with poor outcomes (HR 10.59; CI 2.64–42.56), the presence of AKI at presentation (HR [12, 22–24). This is not surprising as renal damage has been con- 6.35; CI 1.64–24.55) and non-compliance with treatment (HR sistently found to be independent predictor of mortality in SLE. 2.64; CI 1.36–5.13). Figure 2 shows the renal survival patterns ac- Faurschou et al. have reported that serum creatinine >140 lmol/ cording to remission status at 1-year post-induction therapy. L increased the risk for ESRD by 3.5 times . Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/ckj/article-abstract/11/1/56/3977774 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018 60 | C.L. Teh et al. Table 5. Multivariate analysis of the risk factors for ESRF in patients Independent predictors of mortality in our cohort of LN patients with lupus nephritis were the presence of AKI at presentation, failure to achieve re- mission at 1-year post-induction therapy and non-compliance 95% CI with treatment. Risk factors HR Lower Upper P-value AKI 6.350 1.643 24.550 0.007 Acknowledgements Failure to achieve 10.591 2.636 42.561 0.001 We would like to thank Dr Tracy Ting, Dr Tonni Sia, Dr Yong Kar remission at 1 year Ying, Dr Cheong Yaw Kiet and Dr Lai Kee Hofor helping us with Non-compliance 2.636 1.355 5.130 0.004 data collection. We would like to thank medical students Jennifer Laura Tucker and Kimberley Josephine Rawlins for proofreading. Authors’ contributions All authors were involved in conception, design, analysis and interpretation of data. C.L.T. and C.H.-H.T. were involved in drafting the article, revising it and providing intellectual content of critical importance to the work described. 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