Pioneering Study Finds Most Women with Lupus can Have Good Pregnancy Outcomes, Identifies Risk Factors Linked to Poor Outcomes

New York, NY—June 22, 2015

One of the most important and anxiety-producing concerns among patients with lupus is whether it is safe to become pregnant. A pioneering study led by researchers at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) has shown that most women can expect a good pregnancy outcome if their lupus is inactive and they are free of certain risk factors.

The findings, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, are the culmination of a 10-year prospective, multi-center study known as PROMISSE (Predictors of pRegnancy Outcome: bioMarkers In antiphospholipid antibody Syndrome and Systemic lupus Erythematosus) led by researchers at Hospital for Special Surgery. PROMISSE, funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, was launched in 2003 to identify risk factors that predict poor pregnancy outcomes in women with lupus and antiphospholipid antibody syndrome. Jane E. Salmon, MD, Director of the Lupus and APS Center of Excellence and Collette Kean Research Chair at Hospital for Special Surgery, was the principal investigator of the study and led the team of clinicians and researchers. 

Systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly known as lupus, primarily affects women of childbearing age. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and damages healthy tissue. It can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain and other organs. In the past, lupus patients were advised not to become pregnant because of potential risks to their health and that of their baby.

"Our findings provide a clear direction for counseling patients, and reassuring women with inactive lupus," said Dr. Salmon, principal investigator. "We also learned that patients with specific clinical features and certain antibodies that can be detected early in pregnancy by blood tests have an increased risk of serious pregnancy complications."

Researchers followed 385 pregnant women enrolled between September 2003 and December 2012 at eight sites in the United States and Canada. PROMISSE is a multi-ethnic, multi-racial study, and the largest prospective study of lupus pregnancies. All women were enrolled in the first 12 weeks of their pregnancies and had inactive or stable mild to moderate lupus disease activity at the time of enrollment. They were seen by study investigators monthly.

Study Results

Investigators reported that 81 percent of pregnancies were free of complications. Fetal or neonatal death occurred in 5 percent of pregnancies. Nine percent of women had a preterm delivery. Ten percent of babies had a low birth weight. Most patients with these pregnancy complications had one or more risk factors: a specific antiphospholipid antibody in the blood, a history of hypertension, and/or a low platelet count.

"It was exciting to see that severe lupus flares occurred in less than three percent of women during pregnancy," said Dr. Salmon. "Lupus patients and their doctors can be confident of a good pregnancy outcome in most cases if lupus is quiescent when they become pregnant. Our findings now allow clinicians to identify the patients at high risk and manage them accordingly."

Publication date: Monday, June 22, 2015


Jill P. Buyon, MD, New York University School of Medicine, New York

Mimi Y. Kim, ScD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York

Marta M. Guerra, MS, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York

Carl A. Laskin, MD, University of Toronto, Toronto

Michelle Petri, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore

Michael D. Lockshin, MD, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York

Lisa Sammaritano, MD, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York

D. Ware Branch, MD, University of Utah Health Sciences Center and Intermountain Healthcare, Salt Lake City

T. Flint Porter, MD, MPH, University of Utah Health Sciences Center and Intermountain Healthcare, Salt Lake City

Allen Sawitzke, MD, University of Utah Health Sciences Center, Salt Lake City

Joan T. Merrill, MD, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City

Mary D. Stephenson, MD, MSc, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago

Elisabeth Cohn, BA, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York

Lamya Garabet, MD, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, Oestfold Hospital Trust, Fredrikstad, Norway

Jane E. Salmon, MD, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York


About Hospital for Special Surgery
Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) is the world’s largest academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. HSS is nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics and No. 2 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2016-2017), and is the first hospital in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center four consecutive times. HSS has one of the lowest infection rates in the country. HSS is an affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College and as such all Hospital for Special Surgery medical staff are faculty of Weill Cornell. The hospital's research division is internationally recognized as a leader in the investigation of musculoskeletal and autoimmune diseases. Hospital for Special Surgery is located in New York City and online at


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