Newswise — 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.”

Authors: Bella Mehta, MBBS, MS, Katharine Kayla J. Glaser, Deanna Jannat-Khah (HSS), Yiming Luo (National Institutes of Health, Medicine, Bethesda), Lisa R. Sammaritano, MD, Jane E. Salmon, MD, Susan M. Goodman, MD (HSS), Fei Wang (Weill Cornell Medicine).

About HSS

HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the 12th consecutive year), No. 4 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2021-2022), and the best pediatric orthopedic hospital in NY, NJ and CT by U.S. News & World Report “Best Children’s Hospitals” list (2021-2022). In a survey of medical professionals in more than 20 countries by Newsweek, HSS is ranked world #1 in orthopedics for a second consecutive year (2022). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has the lowest complication and readmission rates in the nation for orthopedics, and among the lowest infection rates. HSS was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center five consecutive times. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State, as well as in Florida. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration. The HSS Innovation Institute works to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices. The HSS Education Institute is a trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal knowledge and research for physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, academic trainees, and consumers in more than 145 countries. The institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally.

Meeting Link: European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology (EULAR) 2022 Congress