Autoimmun Rev. 2023 Oct 16:103467. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2023.103467. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Complement levels have been proposed as candidate biomarkers of disease activity and obstetric risk in lupus pregnancies, but their reliability has been questioned due to the physiologic fluctuations of complement levels during gestation. Thus, this network meta-analysis aimed at assessing the clinical significance of complement fluctuations in lupus pregnant women.
METHODS: Corresponding authors of 19 studies meeting inclusion criteria were invited to contribute with additional data including C3 and C4 levels [before pregnancy, at conception, in every trimester (T) and 3 months after delivery]; data were pooled together in a network meta-analysis.
RESULTS: A total of 532 lupus women from four studies were included in the analysis. In SLE women, C3 and C4 increased progressively during gestation: levels remained stable during T1 and peaked in T2 to decrease in T3. Patients with previous lupus nephritis (LN) and those who experienced flares during pregnancy had significantly lower mean levels of C3 and C4 at all timepoints. The lowest levels of complement were observed, particularly during T1, in patients with LN and gestational flare. Both reduction and the lack of increase of C3 and C4 levels at T1 versus conception were associated with gestational flares, particularly in LN patients. Pregnancies with flare had a statistically significant higher rate of maternal and fetal complications (60%vs.50.3%; p = 0.03).
CONCLUSIONS: Low complement levels, particularly in T1, were associated with a higher frequency of gestational flare. Either reduction or smaller increase of C3 and/or C4 levels, even within normal range, might predict flares especially in early gestation.