Diffuse alveolar hemorrhage (DAH) is a devastating clinical syndrome characterized by a falling hematocrit, respiratory insufficiency, and radiographic evidence of pulmonary infiltrates. Literature regarding management of DAH in childhood-onset SLE (cSLE) is limited.
We reviewed the presentation, management, and outcome of DAH in a pediatric tertiary medical center with one of the largest cSLE cohorts in North America. During a 10 year period 7 of 410 children with cSLE had DAH.
The majority of cSLE patients with DAH were male (71%) and Hispanic (57%). The median age at the time of DAH diagnosis was 14 years (range 3 -15 years). DAH was the presenting manifestation of cSLE in 29% of children; 71% presented with DAH within 3 months of their diagnosis. All patients had cough, 86% had dyspnea, and 29% had hemoptysis. All patients had anemia and 71% had thrombocytopenia. Eighty-six percent had hematuria/proteinuria, and a positive anti-double stranded DNA antibody. Chest imaging showed diffuse ground glass opacities in all events. All patients developed respiratory insufficiency (29% supplemental oxygenation and 71% mechanical ventilation). Transfusions were required in 57% of cases. All patients received corticosteroids and additional immunomodulation to achieve disease control. Eighty-six percent of our DAH/cSLE cohort survived their initial event (median follow-up 2.5 years). No survivor required supplemental oxygen or had a DAH recurrence.
SLE should be in the hospitalist's differential diagnosis for any child with respiratory insufficiency, cytopenias, and/or urinary abnormalities. Once cSLE is identified, initiation of aggressive immune suppression with multiple agents may enhance outcomes.