Background: Lupus nephritis is associated with increased risk of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and all-cause mortality. We evaluated the clinical features and outcomes of patients with early and delayed lupus nephritis. Methods: The medical records of 171 patients who met the 1997 revised classification criteria for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) with pathologic confirmation of lupus nephritis were reviewed. Early lupus nephritis was defined when lupus nephritis was histopathologically confirmed as the first clinical manifestation of SLE, whereas delayed lupus nephritis was defined as lupus nephritis that was identified after the diagnosis of SLE. Clinical and laboratory data, as well as kidney histopathology and medication usage were investigated. Kaplan-Meier and Cox-proportional hazard analysis was performed to compare the outcomes of early and delayed lupus nephritis and evaluate factors associated with ESRD and all-cause mortality. Results: Patients with early lupus nephritis had higher disease activity (median non-renal SLE disease activity index-2000, 6.0 vs. 4.0; p < 0.001) and more frequent skin rash, oral ulcer and serositis; however, the proportion of patients with higher renal chronicity index was greater in the delayed lupus nephritis group (p = 0.007). Nevertheless, no difference was found regarding ESRD and all-cause mortality between the groups. In Cox-proportional hazard analysis, C-reactive protein level, creatinine level and chronicity index were factors associated with ESRD, while age and haemoglobin level were associated with all-cause mortality. Conclusions: In conclusion, clinical outcomes of early and delayed lupus nephritis are not significantly different. Rigorous adherence to current treatment recommendations is essential for the treatment of lupus nephritis.
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