All patients with idiopathic inflammatory myopathies (IIM) should be screened for swallowing difficulties, according to the first evidence-based guideline to be produced.
The guideline, which has been developed by a working group of the British Society for Rheumatology (BSR), also advises that all diagnosed patients should have their myositis antibody levels checked and have their overall well-being assessed. Other recommendations for all patients include the use of glucocorticoids to reduce muscle inflammation and conventional synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (csDMARDs) for long-term treatment.
“Finally, now, we’re able to standardize the way we treat adults and children with IIM,” senior guideline author, said at the society’s annual meeting.
It has been a long labor of love, however, taking 4 years to get the guideline published, said Dr. Chinoy, professor of rheumatology and neuromuscular disease at the University of Manchester (England), and a consultant at Salford (England) Royal Hospital.
“We’re not covering diagnosis, classification, or the investigation of suspected IIM,” said Dr. Chinoy. Inclusion body myositis also is not included.
Altogether, there are 13 recommendations that have been developed using a PICO (patient or population, intervention, comparison, outcome) format, graded based on the quality of the available evidence, and then voted on by the working group members to give a score of the strength of agreement. Dr. Chinoy noted that there was a checklist included in the Supplementary Data section ofto help follow the recommendations.
“The target audience for the guideline reflects the variety of clinicians caring for patients with IIM,” Dr. Chinoy said. So that is not just pediatric and adult rheumatologists, but also neurologists, dermatologists, respiratory physicians, oncologists, gastroenterologists, cardiologists, and of course other health care professionals. This includes rheumatology and neurology nurses, psychologists, speech and language therapists, and podiatrists, as well as rheumatology specialist pharmacists, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists.
With reference to the latter, Liza McCann, MBBS, who co-led the development of the guideline, said in athat the guideline “highlights the importance of exercise, led and monitored by specialist physiotherapists and occupational therapists.”
Dr. McCann, a consultant pediatric rheumatologist at Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool, England, and Honorary Clinical Lecturer at the University of Liverpool, added that the guidelines also cover “the need to address psychological wellbeing as an integral part of treatment, in parallel with pharmacological therapies.”
Some of the highlights of the recommendations include the use of high-dose glucocorticoids to manage skeletal muscle inflammation at the time of treatment induction, with specific guidance on the different doses to use in adults and in children. There also is guidance on the use of csDMARDs in both populations and what to use if there is refractory disease – with the strongest evidence supporting the use of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) or cyclophosphamide, and possibly rituximab and abatacept.
“There is insufficient evidence to recommend JAK inhibition,” Dr. Chinoy said. The data search used to develop the guideline had a cutoff of October 2020, but even now there is only anecdotal evidence from case studies, he added.
Importantly, the guidelines recognize that childhood IIM differs from adult disease and call for children to be managed by pediatric specialists.
“Routine assessment of dysphagia should be considered in all patients,” Dr. Chinoy said, “so ask the question.” The recommendation is that a swallowing assessment should involve a speech and language therapist or gastroenterologist, and that IVIG be considered for active disease and dysphagia that is resistant to other treatments.
There also are recommendations to screen adult patients for interstitial lung disease, consider fracture risk, and screen adult patients for cancer if they have specific risk factors that include older age at onset, male gender, dysphagia, and rapid disease onset, among others.