Methods: We conducted a literature search (PubMed (Medline), Embase and Cochrane January 1966–October 2021). We identified original longitudinal observational studies reporting GC exposure as the proportion of users and/or GC use with dose information as well as the occurrence of new major organ damage as defined in the Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics/American College of Rheumatology Damage Index. Meta-regression analyses were performed. Reviews, case-reports and studies with <5 years of follow-up, <50 patients, different outcomes and special populations were excluded.
Results: We selected 49 articles including 16 224 patients, 14 755 (90.9%) female with a mean age and disease duration of 35.1 years and of 37.1 months. The mean follow-up time was 104.9 months. For individual damage items, the average daily GC dose was associated with the occurrence of overall cardiovascular events and with osteoporosis with fractures. A higher average cumulative dose adjusted (or not)/number of follow-up years and a higher proportion of patients on GC were associated with the occurrence of osteonecrosis.
Conclusions: We confirm associations of GC use with three specific damage items. In treating patients with SLE, our aim should be to maximise the efficacy of GC and to minimise their harms.