Survival of patients with SLE admitted to an intensive care unit—a retrospective study

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We examined the demography, reasons for admission and cause of death in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients admitted to a medical intensive care unit (ICU) over a 7-year period. Fourteen patients were admitted during this period—all were female, 13 were of mixed ethnic ancestry and one a black South African. Of the 14 patients, 12 were admitted as a result of lupus activity, 2 had sepsis as the major cause of admission, although 5 other patients developed infection during their admission. Five patients had a generalised flare of their disease or progressive renal failure. Seven patients were admitted with a variety of lupus-related pathologies. In general the precise cause of death was difficult to determine. Of the 14 patients, 9 had impaired renal function on admission including 1 with sepsis and 1 of the survivors. Three patients (21%) survived, one with respiratory failure due to shrinking lung, a second with an acute flare of SLE and a third with pulmonary emboli. This study demonstrates that lupus in our community may produce life-threatening flares. Although cause of death was not always definitely identified, admission to the ICU was primarily due to active SLE and not sepsis or iatrogenic disease.

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Correspondence to D. A. Whitelaw.

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Whitelaw, D.A., Gopal, R. & Freeman, V. Survival of patients with SLE admitted to an intensive care unit—a retrospective study. Clin Rheumatol 24, 223–227 (2005).

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  • Intensive care
  • Mortality
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus