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Objective. To analyse therapeutic management of eosinophilic fasciitis (EF).
Methods. We reviewed 34 adult patients with biopsy-proven EF. Analyses focused on the therapeutic management, including treatment modalities, responses and associated or predictive factors.
Results. Thirty-four patients were included with a diagnosis age of 53 (15) years. They were featured by cutaneous manifestations (88%) including morphoea (41%), myalgia (86%) and hypereosinophilia (85%). Thirty-two patients (94%) were eligible for treatment evaluation and all received CSs as a first-line therapy. Fifteen patients (47%) received methylprednisolone pulses (MPPs) at treatment initiation and 14 patients (44%) received an immunosuppressive drug (ISD), usually MTX (86%), as a second-line therapy. Complete remission was achieved for 69% of patients, remission with disability 19% and failure 12%. A poor outcome was associated with a diagnosis time delay of >6 months [odds ratio (OR) = 14.7] and the lack of MPPs (OR = 12.9).
Conclusion. Our study reports new insights into the therapeutic management of EF: (i) CS treatment remains the standard therapy for EF, taken alone or in association with an ISD; (ii) MPPs at initiation of treatment are associated with a better outcome and a lower need of ISD use; (iii) an ISD, usually MTX, might be useful as a second-line therapy, mainly in patients with morphoea-like lesions. Naturally, these practical conclusions should be confirmed by a prospective and multicentre study.
fasciitis, eosinophilia, treatment, methotrexate, morphoea
In 1975, Shulman described eosinophilic fasciitis (EF) as a rare connective tissue disease characterized by a symmetrical and painful swelling with a progressive induration of the skin and soft tissues [1, 2]. In the absence of international diagnostic criteria, diagnosis of EF is now based on the association of characteristic skin or subcutaneous abnormalities and a thickened fascia with an inflammatory infiltration, mostly composed of lymphocytes and eosinophils [3, 4]. Peripheral eosinophilia is present in 63–93% of patients, although not mandatory for EF diagnosis [3, 4].
Therapeutic management of EF is one of the most significant challenges, as the clinical, biological and pathological features are well defined. Mainstay therapy is based on steroids with a partial or complete response in just over 60% of patients . Use of immunosuppressive drugs (AZA, CYC, MTX, ciclosporin and, more recently, anti-TNF-α and rituximab) is not codified, and is mostly justified by failure of, or dependence on, high doses of CSs [4–11].
The aim of our study was to highlight new insights into EF therapeutic management. We set up a retrospective study of 34 adult patients with biopsy-proven EF and analysed their therapeutic management, including treatment modalities, response and associated prognostic factors.
We retrospectively reviewed medical charts of adult patients treated or referred to our University Hospital for EF between January 1992 and May 2010. EF diagnosis was based on suggestive clinical and laboratory findings and a biopsy-proven fascia involvement [1, 4, 5]. No patient had an l-tryptophane-associated eosinophilia–myalgia syndrome. Informed consent was obtained for each patient.
Data collection and variables of interest
Collected data included demographic parameters, presence, type and distribution of cutaneous, articular and muscular involvement. Morphoea was diagnosed clinically when skin sclerosis was noticed and histologically when a dermal fibrosis was noticed [4, 12]. Subcutis sclerosis was diagnosed clinically when a deep subcutis induration was present without involvement of the superficial skin. Baseline biological data included eosinophil count, creatinine phosphokinase (CPK), CRP, serum gammaglobulin level and, when available, immunological markers: ANCA, ANA, anti-ENA antibodies. Peripheral hypereosinophilia was defined by an absolute number of peripheral eosinophils >500/mm3 .
All patients underwent a full thickness skin to muscle biopsy following a standard protocol and the pathological analyses were performed in the same laboratory by M.T. or D.O. Diagnosis of EF was assessed by the evidence of a fasciitis with a thickened fascia and inflammatory infiltrates composed of lymphocytes and/or eosinophils .
Data regarding treatment regimen, clinical and biological responses were collected. Recorded treatments included oral steroids, i.v. methylprednisolone pulses (MPPs), immunosuppressive drugs (ISDs) (MTX, AZA) and immunomodulatory drugs (HCQ, colchicine). Prescribed treatment was the responsibility of the patient's physician.
Treatment response definitions
Response to treatment was defined as: (i) failure (patients with persistent active physical signs and symptoms); (ii) remission (patients with disability, i.e. persistent joint contractures, tendon retraction or subcutis sclerosis); and (iii) complete remission (free of symptoms at end of follow-up and resolution of physical findings). A poor outcome was defined as failure or presence of a disability. A complete laboratory response was defined as the normalization of peripheral eosinophil count.
Continuous variables were compared using the t-test or the Kruskal–Wallis test, and categorical variables using Fisher's exact or χ2 tests as appropriate. A stepwise multiple logistic regression analysis was used to assess independent associations based on the results of univariate analyses (P < 0.1). Rates of event-free survival (ISD, poor outcome) over time were plotted by Kaplan–Meier's method and compared using the log-rank test. A Cox proportional hazards multiple regression model was used to evaluate the relative risk (RR) associated with the introduction of an ISD. All tests were two-tailed and a P ≤ 0.05 was considered statistically significant. All statistical analyses were performed using the MedCalc software version 18.104.22.168 (Mariakerke, Belgium).
Patients characteristics and clinical manifestations
Thirty-four patients were included (Table 1). At diagnosis, a cutaneous involvement was present in 30 (88%) patients and upper extremities were affected in all cases. Eighteen (53%) patients had a groove sign on forearm (Fig. 1A) and 14 (41%) patients exhibited morphoea-like lesions (Fig. 1B). Thirteen (38%) patients had arthralgia and 29 (86%) complained of muscle pain involving upper (86%) and lower extremities (59%). Nine (26%) patients experienced weight loss and 13 (38%) patients asthenia, but none had fever.
Cutaneous findings and outcome. (A) Typical groove sign (depressed veins aspect) of the left forearm of a patient with EF. (B) A morphoea-like skin lesion on the back of a patient with EF. (C and D) Kaplan–Meier curve analysis of the effect of the presence of morphoea (C), the lack of MPPs at treatment initiation (D) on the probability of receiving an ISD as a second-line therapy.