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Br J Rheumatol. 1998 Aug;37(8):895-900.

Risk factors for avascular bone necrosis in systemic lupus erythematosus.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Queen Mary Hospital, Pokfulam, Hong Kong.



To study the predictive factors for avascular necrosis (AVN) of bone in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).


The records of 38 SLE patients who developed clinically apparent AVN during the course of their disease were reviewed. Information on clinical presentation, corticosteroid usage and autoantibody profiles was obtained, and comparison was made between these patients and 143 consecutive control SLE patients who did not have AVN.


The point prevalence of AVN in our SLE population was 12%. Patients with AVN, when compared with controls, had a significantly higher incidence of neurological disease (39% vs 14%; P < 0.001) and Cushingoid body habitus after steroid treatment (79% vs 53%; P = 0.004). The highest cumulative prednisolone dose in 1 and 4 months was significantly higher in the AVN group than the controls (1.8 vs 1.1 and 4.5 vs 2.8 g, respectively; P < 0.01 in both) and showed a linear trend with the incidence of AVN (chi2 test for trend, P < 0.01 in both). Lupus anticoagulant was associated with AVN (P = 0.02, odds ratio 2.88 [1.14-7.28]). Logistic regression analysis revealed that the highest cumulative prednisolone dose administered in 4 months, the maximum and mean daily prednisolone dosage, and the lupus anticoagulant were independent risk factors for AVN.


Corticosteroid remains the major predisposing factor for AVN in SLE. Patients who require an initial high-dose steroid for disease control are at risk of AVN, especially if they are positive for the lupus anticoagulant or develop Cushingoid habitus after steroid treatment. High-risk patients should be closely monitored so that early AVN can be diagnosed by sensitive techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging and radioisotope bone scanning.

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