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Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2016 Jul;68(7):981-7. doi: 10.1002/acr.22774.

Analysis of Complete Remission in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Patients Over a 32-Year Period.

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Hospital Universitario Ramón y Cajal, Madrid, Spain.
Complejo Hospitalario Universitario A Coruña, A Coruña, Spain.
Hospital Universitario de Basurto, Bilbao, Spain.
University College London, London, UK.



Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is characterized by an unpredictable and fluctuating course. Although various methods have been developed to measure disease activity, there is still a lack of consensus about the optimal criteria for SLE remission. The principal aim of our study was to identify the number of lupus patients achieving a complete remission (implying that for 3 years there were no clinical or serologic features and no treatment with steroids and immunosuppressive drugs) in a single cohort of patients followed for a period of up to 32 years. In addition, we have identified patients in clinical but not serologic remission (known as serologically active, clinically quiescent disease [SACQ]) and vice versa. We were particularly interested to determine the factors associated with complete remission.


Eligible patients were followed up in the University College Hospital Lupus cohort from January 1978 until December 2010 for a period of at least 3 years. Complete remission was defined as a period of at least 3 years with clinical inactivity (British Isles Lupus Assessment Group scores of C, D, or E only) and laboratory remission (no antibodies to double-stranded DNA and normal complement C3 levels), and being off-treatment with corticosteroids and immunosuppressants. Antimalarial and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs were allowed.


Of 624 lupus patients at our hospital, a total of 532 patients met the strict inclusion criteria for the study. Of these 532 patients, 77 patients (14.5%) achieved complete remission for at least 3 years, and 23 (4.3%) achieved complete remission for a minimum period of 10 years. Ten of these 77 patients were subsequently lost to followup, and, interestingly, flares occurred subsequently in 15 of the 67 remaining patients (22.4%). Three patients relapsed after the tenth year of remission. Forty-five patients (8.5%) fulfilled the requirement for SACQ, and 66 patients (12.4%) achieved only serologic remission.


Our study indicated that 14.5% of lupus patients achieved a complete remission for 3 years. However, flares may continue to occur beyond 10 years of remission. Long-term followup of SLE is therefore mandatory.

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