Whether a repeat renal biopsy is helpful during lupus nephritis (LN) flares remains debatable. In order to analyze the clinical utility of repeat renal biopsy in this complex situation, we retrospectively reviewed our series of 54 LN patients who had one or more repeat biopsies performed only on clinical indications. Additionally, we reviewed 686 well-documented similar cases previously reported (PubMed 1990–2015).
The analysis of all patients reviewed showed that histological transformations are common during a LN flare, ranging from 40% to 76% of cases. However, the prevalence of transformations and the clinical value of repeat biopsy vary when they are analyzed according to proliferative or nonproliferative lesions.
The great majority of patients with class II (78% in our series and 77.5% in the literature review) progressed to a higher grade of nephritis (classes III, IV, or V), resulting in worse renal prognosis. The frequency of pathological conversion in class V is lower (33% and 43%, respectively) but equally clinically relevant, since almost all cases switched to a proliferative class. Therefore, repeat biopsy is highly advisable in patients with nonproliferative LN at baseline biopsy, because these patients have a reasonable likelihood of switch to a proliferative LN that may require more aggressive immunosuppression.
In contrast, the majority of patients (82% and 73%) with proliferative classes in the reference biopsy (III, IV or mixed III/IV + V), remained into proliferative classes on repeat biopsy. Although rebiopsy in this group does not seem as necessary, it is still advisable since it will allow us to identify the 18% to 20% of patients that switch to a nonproliferative class. In addition, consistent with the reported clinical experience, repeat biopsy might also be helpful to identify selected cases with clear progression of proliferative lesions despite the initial treatment, for whom it is advisable to intensify inmunosuppression. Thus, our experience and the literature data support that repeat biopsy also brings more advantges than threats in this group.
The results of the repeat biopsy led to a change in the immunosuppresive treatment in more than half of the patients on average, intensifying it in the majority of the cases, but also reducing it in 5% to 30%.