Relapse rate of uveitis post-methotrexate treatment in juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Viera Kalinina Ayuso, Evelyne Leonce van de Winkel, Aniki Rothova, Joke Helena de Boer
American Journal of Ophthalmology 2011, 151 (2): 217-22

PURPOSE: To evaluate the efficacy of methotrexate (MTX) and the effect of its withdrawal on relapse rate of uveitis associated with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

DESIGN: Retrospective case series.

METHODS: Data of 22 pediatric JIA patients who were being treated with MTX for active uveitis were studied retrospectively. Relapse rate after the withdrawal of MTX was established. Anterior chamber (AC) inflammation, topical steroid use during the first year of MTX treatment, and associations of relapses after the withdrawal were evaluated statistically. Duration of MTX treatment and its withdrawal was determined individually in collaboration with a rheumatologist with an intention to continue the treatment for at least 1 year and to withdraw in case of inactivity of uveitis and arthritis. Inactivity of uveitis was defined as the presence of ≤0.5+ cells in the AC.

RESULTS: Eighteen patients (18/22; 82%) showed improvement of their uveitis with a significant decrease in activity of AC inflammation after a minimal period of 3 months of MTX treatment. A topical steroid-sparing effect was observed when MTX was administered for a period of 3 to 9 months. MTX was discontinued because of inactive uveitis in 13 patients. In 9 patients (8/13; 69%) a relapse of uveitis was observed after a mean time of 7.5 months (± SD 7.3). Six patients (6/13; 46%) had a relapse within the first year after the withdrawal. Relapse-free survival after withdrawal of MTX was significantly longer in patients who had been treated with MTX for more than 3 years (P = .009), children who were older than 8 years at the moment of withdrawal (P = .003), and patients who had an inactivity of uveitis of longer than 2 years before withdrawal of MTX (P = .033). Longer inactivity under MTX therapy was independently protective for relapses after the withdrawal (hazard ratio = 0.07; 95% confidence interval 0.01-0.86; P = .038), which means that 1-year increase of duration of inactive uveitis before the withdrawal of MTX results in a decrease of hazard for new relapse of 93%.

CONCLUSIONS: A high number of patients with inactive uveitis relapse quickly after the withdrawal of MTX. Our results suggest that a longer period of inactivity prior to withdrawal and a longer treatment period with MTX reduce the chance of relapse after withdrawal.

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