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Red blood cell distribution width as a surrogate biomarker of damage and disease activity in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus.

OBJECTIVES: Red blood cell distribution width (RDW) is a measure of variability in mean corpuscular volume. Alterations in RDW can be observed in a variety of human disorders, including inflammatory, cardiovascular, and hepatic or renal diseases. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect virtually any organ in the body. In this work, our objective was to analyse how a complete characterisation of disease characteristics in a large series of patients with SLE is related to RDW values.

METHODS: 284 patients with SLE and 181 age- and sex-matched healthy controls were recruited. Complete blood count including RDW was assessed. Multivariable analysis was performed to analyse the relationship between RDW and SLE disease characteristics, including composite scores of disease activity and damage.

RESULTS: After multivariable adjustment, RDW was higher in patients with SLE compared to controls (beta coefficient 0.8 [95% confidence interval: 0.3-1] %, p=0.003). Several disease characteristics, such as the presence of extractable nuclear antibodies and antiphospholipid syndrome, and the use of prednisone and azathioprine, were significantly associated with higher levels of RDW after adjustment for confounders. Of note, cumulative disease damage and disease activity scores were associated with higher RDW values after controlling for covariates.

CONCLUSIONS: RDW may serve as a surrogate biomarker of accrual disease damage and activity in patients with SLE.

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