BackgroundSystemic sclerosis (SSc) patients often need immunosuppressive medication (IS) for disease control. If SSc is progressive despite IS, autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (aHSCT) is a treatment option for selected SSc patients. aHSCT is effective with good available evidence, but not all patients achieve a treatment-free remission after aHSCT. Thus far, data about the need of IS after aHSCT in SSc is not published. The aim of this study was to investigate the use of IS after aHSCT, its efficacy, and the occurrence of severe adverse events (SAEs).MethodsTwenty-seven patients with SSc who had undergone aHSCT were included in this single-center retrospective cohort study. Clinical data, including IS, SAEs, and lung function data, were collected.ResultsSixteen of 27 (59.3%) patients received IS after aHSCT. Methotrexate, rituximab, mycophenolate, cyclophosphamide, and hydroxychloroquine were most commonly used. The main reason for starting IS was SSc progress. Nine patients received rituximab after aHSCT and showed an improvement in modified Rodnan skin score and a stabilization of lung function 2 years after rituximab. SAEs in patients with IS after aHSCT (50.0%) were not more common than in patients without IS (54.6%). SAEs were mostly due to SSc progress, secondary autoimmune diseases, or infections. Two deaths after aHSCT were transplantation related and three during long-term follow-up due to pulmonary arterial hypertension.ConclusionDisease progression and secondary autoimmune diseases may necessitate IS after aHSCT in SSc. Rituximab seems to be an efficacious treatment option in this setting. Long-term data on the safety of aHSCT is reassuring.
Sinusoidal obstruction syndrome (SOS) is a rare complication after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (alloHSCT) caused by endothelial dysfunction. Previous definitions and diagnostic criteria for the presence of SOS include bilirubinemia, hepatomegaly and weight gain, but histological evaluation is still the only way to prove the diagnosis of SOS. However, biopsy remains an invasive technique and is therefore undesirable in the alloHSCT scenario. Hence, a non-invasive diagnostic strategy is critical. Besides thorough clinical assessment and laboratory values, ultrasound examination remains part of the diagnostic workflow in clinical routine. Previous studies defined sonographic abnormalities, which are associated with the occurrence of SOS, but a standardized protocol to perform reliable abdominal ultrasound has not been finally defined. In this study, we evaluated a multi-parameter protocol including laboratory values as well as ultrasound examination pre- and post-alloHSCT. The application of this protocol was feasible in clinical practice and achieved a high inter- and intra-rater reliability. In our population, no case of SOS was identifiable and, in line with previous studies, no changes known to be associated with SOS were detected by ultrasound examination in our cohort. Additionally, we investigated subgroups of patients partly fulfilling SOS diagnostic criteria analyzing correlations between the fulfilled criteria and aberrances in ultrasound measurements pre- and post-alloHSCT. Although statistical examination may be limited by a small sample size and missing SOS cases, hyperbilirubinemia, thrombocytopenia and weight gain showed only a coincidence with selected, enlarged liver dimensions in few patients. This may underline the fact that hepatomegaly occurs as an unspecific finding after alloHSCT. Our protocol, including the ultrasound examination pre- and post-alloHSCT and laboratory parameters, may help to rule out SOS early, but validation in a greater population and different transplantation centers is required to warrant broader appliance. Nevertheless, we aim to contribute to an elaborate and standardized work-flow in peri-alloHSCT patient care.