Objective: To analyze the clinical significance of hyperintense white matter (WM) lesions in both symptomatic and asymptomatic systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients. Methods: We studied 120 consecutive SLE patients and 44 healthy volunteers. Fluid attenuated inversion recovery and T2-weighted magnetic resonance images (MRI) were used for visual and semiautomatic volumetric measurements. Results: At baseline, 61 MRI were normal and 59 had hyperintense WM lesions. Mean volumes of WM lesions were 96.14 (SD = 85.14) mm3 in T2 weighted and 197.2 (161.13) mm3 in FLAIR images. The volume of WM lesions was associated with age (r = 0.45; p = 0.01), total corticosteroid dose (r = 0.53; p = 0.001), and Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics/American College of Rheumatology Damage Index scores (r = 0.55; p = 0.002). After a median follow-up time of 24 months (SD = 2.3; range = 12-28 months), 20 patients had still normal MRIs, 30 patients had stable MRI findings, and 30 had new WM lesions. Predictors for new or increased WM lesions were past central nervous system manifestations ( p = 0.001; OR = 12.2; 95% CI = 3.5-21.2), antiphospholipid antibodies ( p = 0.003; OR = 6.9; 95% CI = 2.1-15.3); Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics/American College of Rheumatology Damage Index scores ( p = 0.002; OR = 7.2; 95% CI = 1.4-17.8) and higher dose of total corticosteroid dose ( p = 0.01; OR = 2.4; 95% CI = 1.4-6.7). Conclusion: Small hyperintense WM lesions in SLE are associated with central nervous system symptoms and antiphospholipid antibodies, and progress over time in patients with more severe SLE. Therefore, in the context of SLE, these lesions are likely consequences of central nervous system damage and not mere incidental finding.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology