From the Journals

New lupus classification criteria perform well in children, young adults



The 2019 systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) classification criteria jointly developed by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) proved significantly better at detecting true positive cases of the disease in children and young adults than did the 1997 ACR criteria, according to results from a single-center, retrospective study.

However, the 2019 criteria, which were developed using cohorts of adult patients with SLE, were statistically no better than the 1997 ACR criteria at identifying those without the disease, first author Najla Aljaberi, MBBS, of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and colleagues reported in Arthritis Care & Research.

The 2019 criteria were especially good at correctly classifying SLE in non-White youths, but the two sets of criteria performed equally well among male and female youths with SLE and across age groups.

“Our study confirms superior sensitivity of the new criteria over the 1997-ACR criteria in youths with SLE. The difference in sensitivity estimates between the two criteria sets (2019-EULAR/ACR vs. 1997-ACR) may be explained by a higher weight being assigned to immunologic criteria, less strict hematologic criteria (not requiring >2 occurrences), and the inclusion of subjective features of arthritis. Notably, our estimates of the sensitivity of the 2019-EULAR/ACR criteria were similar to those reported from a Brazilian pediatric study by Fonseca et al. (87.7%) that also used physician diagnosis as reference standard,” the researchers wrote.

Dr. Aljaberi and colleagues reviewed electronic medical records of 112 patients with SLE aged 2-21 years and 105 controls aged 1-19 years at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center during 2008-2019. Patients identified in the records at the center were considered to have SLE based on ICD-10 codes assigned by experienced pediatric rheumatologists. The control patients included 69 (66%) with juvenile dermatomyositis and 36 with juvenile scleroderma/systemic sclerosis, based on corresponding ICD-10 codes.

Among the SLE cases, 57% were White and 81% were female, while Whites represented 83% and females 71% of control patients. Young adults aged 18-21 years represented a minority of SLE cases (18%) and controls (7%).

The 2019 criteria had significantly higher sensitivity than did the 1997 criteria (85% vs. 72%, respectively; P = .023) but similar specificity (83% vs. 87%; P = .456). A total of 17 out of the 112 SLE cases failed to meet the 2019 criteria, 13 (76%) of whom were White. Overall, 31 SLE cases did not meet the 1997 criteria, but 15 of those fulfilled the 2019 criteria. While there was no statistically significant difference in the sensitivity of the 2019 criteria between non-White and White cases (92% vs. 80%, respectively; P = .08), the difference in sensitivity was significant with the 1997 criteria (83% vs. 64%; P < .02).

The 2019 criteria had similar sensitivity in males and females (86% vs. 81%, respectively), as well as specificity (81% vs. 87%). The 1997 criteria also provided similar sensitivity between males and females (71% vs. 76%) as well as specificity (85% vs. 90%).

In only four instances did SLE cases meet 2019 criteria before ICD-10 diagnosis of SLE, whereas in the other 108 cases the ICD-10 diagnosis coincided with reaching the threshold for meeting 2019 criteria.

There was no funding secured for the study, and the authors had no conflicts of interest to disclose.

SOURCE: Aljaberi N et al. Arthritis Care Res. 2020 Aug 25. doi: 10.1002/acr.24430.

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