Antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL) could signal that a lupus patient is at risk of developing pulmonary hypertension (PH) and related conditions, according to a study.
Researchers called for additional studies that would lead to doctors using the antibodies’ presence in blood to screen such patients and develop early treatment strategies for them.
The research, “Antiphospholipid antibodies can identify lupus patients at risk of pulmonary hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” was published in the journal Autoimmunity Reviews.
Lupus is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects many organs. Symptoms include rash, joint and muscle pain, kidney disorders, and neurological disorders.
APLs are associated with lupus development. Because lupus also affects PH patients, the antibodies are present in these patients as well. But it wasn’t clear until this study whether the presence of aPLs increased the risk of a lupus patient developing PH.
Researchers decided to check for a link between aPL and PH. They reviewed 31 studies covering 4,480 lupus patients and 410 PH patients to see if they could find a connection.
What they discovered was that 12.3 percent of lupus patients with the antibodies also had PH, versus 7.3 percent for those without the antibodies.
Importantly, the risk of a lupus patient with antibodies developing PH was twice as high as a patient without them. Patients with the antibodies also were at higher risk of developing conditions associated with PH.
Another finding was that lupus patients with a specific antibody — LA or IgG aCL — were at higher risk of developing PH than those with other aPLs.
“This [study] demonstrated that [lupus] patients with aPL have a two-fold increased risk of PH and [associated conditions] compared to those without these antibodies,” researchers wrote. “This identifies aPL as a potential biomarker for the risk-stratification of PH and [associated conditions] in [lupus] patients.”
When doctors discover that a lupus patient has the antibodies, “echocardiographic monitoring should be mandatory to screen pulmonary hypertension before referral for further evaluation for the confirmation and the treatment of PH,” the team added.
The research had limitations. For instance, the studies the researchers analyzed used different methods for quantifying PH and different criteria for establishing a diagnosis.
Despite this, the team said it hopes its analysis leads to research that develops the antibodies as a tool for identifying PH and related conditions in lupus patients. That way, doctors can screen lupus patients for PH and begin early treatment.