Low-Level Proteinuria in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Alice Chedid, Giovanni M. Rossi, Francesco Peyronel, Steven Menez, Mohamed G. Atta, Serena M. Bagnasco, Lois J. Arend, Avi Z. Rosenberg, Derek M. Fine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: In patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) without concurrent active urinary sediment or unexplained acute kidney injury (AKI), current guidelines recommend performing a kidney biopsy in those with at least 500 mg/24-hour (European League Against Rheumatism/European Renal Association-European Dialysis and Transplant Association [EULAR/ERA-EDTA]) or 1000 mg/24-hour (American College of Rheumatology [ACR]) proteinuria. To evaluate the relevance of these indications, we studied histopathologic findings in patients with SLE with proteinuria below these cutoffs. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the clinical, laboratory and histological characteristics of patients with SLE with <1000 mg/24-hour proteinuria (or mg/g urinary protein-to-creatinine ratio [UPCR]) who underwent their first kidney biopsy between 2003 and 2018. Results: We identified 87 patients with SLE with proteinuria less than 1000 mg/24-hour (or mg/g UPCR); 52 of 87 (60%) with isolated proteinuria, that is, without AKI or active urinary sediment (hematuria). Histologic evidence of lupus nephritis (LN) was present in 40 of 52 (76%). Of the 40 patients with LN, 12 had class I or II, 14 had class III or IV, 8 had class V, 6 had a combined proliferative and membranous LN. Non-lupus diagnoses included focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, acute interstitial nephritis, and others. Patient's age, low C3, low C4, and positivity for anti-double-stranded DNA (anti-dsDNA) antibodies predicted the histological diagnosis of LN on univariate logistic regression; however, a multivariate model including these parameters as independent covariates failed to predict LN. Conclusions: Patients with SLE with low-level proteinuria may have significant lupus- or non–lupus-related kidney disease with management implications. There was a significant burden of severe forms of LN. The presence of LN was not predicted by laboratory abnormalities. Based on our findings, we suggest current guidelines be revised to expand kidney biopsy indications to include isolated proteinuria of any grade.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2333-2340
Number of pages8
JournalKidney International Reports
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • acute kidney injury
  • hematuria
  • histology
  • lupus nephritis
  • proteinuria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Nephrology


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