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Study Underscores Importance of Multidisciplinary Medical Team for Pregnant Women with Lupus

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Photo: Hospital for Special Surgery

A study that includes researchers at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) underscores the importance of a multidisciplinary medical team to counsel and provide care for women with systemic lupus erythematosus, the most common form of lupus, who become pregnant. Using a nationwide database, the investigators reviewed the records of more than 50,000 patients with lupus who gave birth over a 10-year period. Findings revealed a higher rate of fetal morbidity and severe maternal morbidity compared to women who did not have lupus.  

Bella Mehta, MBBS, MS, a rheumatologist at HSS and lead author of the study, presented the results today at the European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology (EULAR) 2022 Congress in Copenhagen. "Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder that often affects women in their childbearing years," explained Dr. Mehta. "In our previous work, we demonstrated that over the years, maternal and fetal mortality in lupus patients have improved significantly, and that was very reassuring to patients. However, less was known about morbidity. We set out to evaluate and quantify the indicators of fetal and maternal morbidity in women with lupus compared to those who did not have the disease."

Using retrospective data from the National Inpatient Sample database, the researchers identified delivery-related hospital admissions from 2008 to 2017. Fetal morbidity indicators included preterm delivery and intrauterine growth restriction. Twenty-one indicators of severe maternal morbidity were identified and defined as unexpected outcomes of labor and delivery that result in significant short- or long-term consequences to a woman's health. 

Among the 40 million delivery-related hospital admissions, 51,161 patients were reported to have lupus. These patients were more likely to be older than women who did not have lupus (30.1 years versus 28.2 years), to be African American (25% versus 15%), and to receive Medicare (5% versus 1%).

During delivery, women with lupus were 15 times more likely to develop acute renal failure than those who did not have lupus (1.5% versus 0.1%), four times more likely to develop a cerebrovascular disorder (4.8% versus 1.1%), and nearly four times more likely to require a blood transfusion (4.0% versus 1.1%). Women with lupus were also more likely to develop cardiovascular and peripheral vascular disorders (1.1% versus 0.1%).

In terms of fetal morbidity, mothers with lupus were twice as likely to deliver prematurely (14.5% versus 7.3%) and nearly three times more likely to experience growth restriction in the womb compared to pregnant patients without lupus (8.0% versus 2.7%).

"The number of co-existing health conditions in pregnant women with lupus was much higher compared to women who did not have lupus. It seems likely that these comorbidities are responsible – at least in part – for the increased risk of fetal and maternal morbidity in lupus patients," Dr. Mehta said. "It is noteworthy that a large percentage of deliveries by women with lupus were at large hospitals and urban teaching hospitals, reflecting the complexities of managing these patients."

Dr. Mehta continued, "Our study is not meant to discourage women with lupus from getting pregnant. We believe our findings can help both patients and their physicians to assess risk, establish appropriate interventions and ensure that a multidisciplinary medical team is in place to counsel patients and manage their care."

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Schedule3 Oct 2023