Sjögren's syndrome in the community: can serology replace salivary gland biopsy?

Aharon Kessel, Elias Toubi, Michael Rozenbaum, Devy Zisman, Edmond Sabo, Itzhak Rosner
Rheumatology International 2006, 26 (4): 337-9

BACKGROUND: It is relatively difficult in a community setting to perform salivary gland biopsy or reliable diagnostic tests for salivary gland involvement in a patient suspected to suffer from Sjögren's syndrome (SS).

OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether anti-Ro/La antibodies are a good substitute for salivary gland biopsy in community patients suspected to suffer from SS.

METHODS: Forty-one patients suspected as having SS due to dry eyes and mouth, articular complaints, and/or serological findings were examined for the presence of anti-Ro/La, and underwent minor salivary gland biopsy.

RESULTS: Sixteen patients (39%) were classified as primary SS by the American-European Consensus Group criteria. Twelve subjects had anti-Ro/La antibodies and 11 subjects in this group had positive biopsy findings. Of 29 patients without anti-Ro/La antibodies, only four manifested positive biopsy findings. A significant association was found between the presence of anti-Ro/La antibodies and positive salivary gland findings characteristic for SS (p<0.0001, Fisher's exact test).

CONCLUSION: These findings tend to support the suggestion that a patient suspected to suffer from SS in a community setting may be first tested for the presence of anti-Ro/La antibodies to confirm the diagnosis. Only those with a negative result for the presence of anti-Ro/La antibodies need to be referred for salivary gland biopsy.

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