Background Infections are a major cause of morbidity in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and may lead to death. No nationally representative study of patients with SLE has examined the rates of infection-related hospitalization and the risk of end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Methods We conducted a nationwide cohort study of 7326 patients with newly diagnosed SLE and no history of ESRD. All data were from Taiwan's National Health Insurance claims database for the period 2000-11. Results Among all SLE patients, 316 (4.3%) developed ESRD (mean follow-up time: 8.1 years). Multivariate Cox regression analysis indicated that the risk of ESRD increased with the number of infection-related hospitalizations. For patients with three or more infection-related admissions, the hazard ratio (HR) for ESRD was 5.08 [95% confidence interval (CI): 3.74-6.90] relative to those with no infection-related admission. Analysis by type of infection indicated that bacteremia patients had the greatest risk for ESRD (HR: 4.82; 95% CI: 3.40-6.85). Analysis of age of SLE onset indicated that patients with juvenile-onset (<18 years) and three or more infection-related hospitalizations had a greatly increased risk for ESRD (HR: 14.49; 95% CI: 5.34-39.33). Conclusions Infection-related hospitalizations are associated with a significantly increased risk of ESRD in patients with SLE, especially those with juvenile-onset SLE. Among patients with different types of infectious diseases, those with bacteremia were more likely to develop ESRD.
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