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Neurocognitive dysfunction in systemic lupus erythematosus: Association with anti-phospholipid antibodies, disease activity and chronic damage

Author(s): Conti F, Alessandri C, Perricone C, et al.

Abstract

Introduction

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is characterized by frequent neuropsychiatric involvement, which includes cognitive impairment (CI). We aimed at assessing CI in a cohort of Italian SLE patients by using a wide range of neurocognitive tests specifically designed to evaluate the fronto-subcortical dysfunction. Furthermore, we aimed at testing whether CI in SLE is associated with serum autoantibodies, disease activity and chronic damage.

Methods

Fifty-eight consecutive patients were enrolled. Study protocol included data collection, evaluation of serum levels of ANA, anti-dsDNA, anti-cardiolipin, anti-β2-glycoprotein I, anti-P ribosomal, anti-endothelial cell, and anti-Nedd5 antibodies. SLEDAI-2000 and SLICC were used to assess disease activity and chronic damage. Patients were administered a test battery specifically designed to detect fronto-subcortical dysfunction across five domains: memory, attention, abstract reasoning, executive function and visuospatial function. For each patient, the raw scores from each test were compared with published norms, then transformed into Z scores (deviation from normal mean), and finally summed in the Global Cognitive Dysfunction score (GCDs).

Results

Nineteen percent of patients had mild GCDs impairment (GCDs 2–3), 7% moderate (GCDs 4–5) and 5% severe (GCDs≥6). The visuospatial domain was the most compromised (MDZs = −0.89±1.23). Anti-cardiolipin IgM levels were associated with visuospatial domain impairment (r = 0.331, P = 0.005). SLEDAI correlated with GCDs, and attentional and executive domains; SLICC correlated with GCDs, and with visuospatial and attentional domains impairment.

Conclusions

Anti-phospholipids, disease activity, and chronic damage are associated with cognitive dysfunction in SLE. The use of a wide spectrum of tests allowed for a better selection of the relevant factors involved in SLE cognitive dysfunction, and standardized neuropsychological testing methods should be used for routine assessment of SLE patients.

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