Evaluation of Fetuses in a Study of Intravenous Immunoglobulin as Preventive Therapy for Congenital Heart Block Results of a Multicenter, Prospective, Open-Label Clinical Trial

Article (PDF Available)inArthritis & Rheumatology 62(4):1138-46 · April 2010with19 Reads
DOI: 10.1002/art.27308 · Source: PubMed
The recurrence rate of anti-SSA/Ro-associated congenital heart block (CHB) is 17%. Sustained reversal of third-degree block has never been achieved. Based on potential reduction of maternal autoantibody titers as well as fetal inflammatory responses, intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) was evaluated as preventive therapy for CHB. A multicenter, prospective, open-label study based on Simon's 2-stage optimal design was initiated. Enrollment criteria included the presence of anti-SSA/Ro antibodies in the mother, birth of a previous child with CHB/neonatal lupus rash, current treatment with < or = 20 mg/day of prednisone, and <12 weeks pregnant. IVIG (400 mg/kg) was given every 3 weeks from week 12 to week 24 of gestation. The primary outcome was the development of second-degree or third-degree CHB. Twenty mothers completed the IVIG protocol before the predetermined stopping rule of 3 cases of advanced CHB in the study was reached. CHB was detected at 19, 20, and 25 weeks; none of the cases occurred following the finding of an abnormal PR interval on fetal Doppler monitoring. One of these mothers had 2 previous children with CHB. One child without CHB developed a transient rash consistent with neonatal lupus. Sixteen children had no manifestations of neonatal lupus at birth. No significant changes in maternal titers of antibody to SSA/Ro, SSB/La, or Ro 52 kd were detected over the course of therapy or at delivery. There were no safety issues. This study establishes the safety of IVIG and the feasibility of recruiting pregnant women who have previously had a child with CHB. However, IVIG at low doses consistent with replacement does not prevent the recurrence of CHB or reduce maternal antibody titers.
Vol. 62, No. 4, April 2010, pp 1138–1146
DOI 10.1002/art.27308
© 2010, American College of Rheumatology
Evaluation of Fetuses in a Study of
Intravenous Immunoglobulin as Preventive Therapy for
Congenital Heart Block
Results of a Multicenter, Prospective, Open-Label Clinical Trial
Deborah M. Friedman,
Carolina Llanos,
Peter M. Izmirly,
Brigit Brock,
John Byron,
Joshua Copel,
Karen Cummiskey,
Mary Anne Dooley,
Jill Foley,
Cornelia Graves,
Colleen Hendershott,
Richard Kates,
Elena V. Komissarova,
Michelle Miller,
Emmanuelle Pare´,
Colin K. L. Phoon,
Tracy Prosen,
Dale Reisner,
Eric Ruderman,
Philip Samuels,
Jerry K. Yu,
Mimi Y. Kim,
and Jill P. Buyon
Objective. The recurrence rate of anti-SSA/Ro
associated congenital heart block (CHB) is 17%. Sus-
tained reversal of third-degree block has never been
achieved. Based on potential reduction of maternal
autoantibody titers as well as fetal inflammatory re-
sponses, intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) was eval-
uated as preventive therapy for CHB.
Methods. A multicenter, prospective, open-label
study based on Simon’s 2-stage optimal design was
initiated. Enrollment criteria included the presence of
anti-SSA/Ro antibodies in the mother, birth of a previ-
ous child with CHB/neonatal lupus rash, current treat-
ment with <20 mg/day of prednisone, and <12 weeks
pregnant. IVIG (400 mg/kg) was given every 3 weeks
from week 12 to week 24 of gestation. The primary
outcome was the development of second-degree or third-
degree CHB.
Results. Twenty mothers completed the IVIG pro-
tocol before the predetermined stopping rule of 3 cases
of advanced CHB in the study was reached. CHB was
detected at 19, 20, and 25 weeks; none of the cases
occurred following the finding of an abnormal PR
interval on fetal Doppler monitoring. One of these
mothers had 2 previous children with CHB. One child
ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00460928.
Supported by the Alliance for Lupus Research and by the
NIH (contract N01-AR-4-2220 for the Research Registry for Neonatal
Deborah M. Friedman, MD: New York Medical College,
Carolina Llanos, MD, Peter M. Izmirly, MD, Elena V.
Komissarova, PhD, Colin K. L. Phoon, MPhil, MD; Jill P. Buyon, MD:
New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York;
Brigit Brock, MD: Obstetrix of Washington, Swedish Medical Center,
and Maternal Fetal Medicine, Seattle, Washington;
John Byron, MD:
Southern Pines Women’s Health Center, and First Health Moore
Regional Hospital, Pinehurst, North Carolina;
Joshua Copel, MD:
Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut;
Cummiskey, MD: Michigan State University College of Human Med-
icine, East Lansing;
Mary Anne Dooley, MD: University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill;
Jill Foley, MD: Alta Bates Summit Medical
Center, Berkley, California;
Cornelia Graves, MD: Baptist Hospital,
Nashville, Tennessee;
Colleen Hendershott, MD: The Permanente
Medical Group Sacramento/Roseville–Kaiser Permanente, Sacramento,
Richard Kates, MD: Hartford Hospital, Hartford, Connect
Michelle Miller, MD: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles,
Emmanuelle Pare´, MD: University of Pennsylvania Health
System, Philadelphia;
Tracy Prosen, MD: University of Minnesota,
Dale Reisner, MD: Swedish Medical Center, Seattle,
Eric Ruderman, MD: Northwestern University Feinberg
School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois;
Philip Samuels, MD: Ohio State
University College of Medicine, Columbus;
Jerry K. Yu, MD: Kaiser
Permanente Medical Center, Fontana, California;
Mimi Y. Kim, ScD:
Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, New York.
Drs. Friedman and Llanos contributed equally to this work.
Dr. Brock owns stock or stock options in Mednax; Obstetrix
of Washington is a subsidiary of Pediatrix-Mednax. Dr. Miller has
received consulting fees from Private Health Management, Inc. for
medical/clinical research for patient care only. Dr. Prosen has received
consulting fees, speaking fees, and/or honoraria from Fairview Ridges
Hospital Grand Rounds (less than $10,000) and has served as a paid
consultant to Guidepoint Global Advisors regarding noninvasive pre-
natal diagnosis. Dr. Ruderman has received consulting fees from
Abbott Laboratories and from Amgen and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals
(less than $10,000 each), as well as from UCB (more than $10,000),
and has served as a paid consultant to the Gerson Lehrman Group.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Jill P. Buyon,
MD, Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, New York
University School of Medicine, 560 First Avenue, TH-407, New York,
NY 10016. E-mail: jbuyonic@aol.com or Jill.Buyon@nyumc.org.
Submitted for publication June 12, 2009; accepted in revised
form December 21, 2009.
without CHB developed a transient rash consistent with
neonatal lupus. Sixteen children had no manifestations
of neonatal lupus at birth. No significant changes in
maternal titers of antibody to SSA/Ro, SSB/La, or Ro 52
kd were detected over the course of therapy or at
delivery. There were no safety issues.
Conclusion. This study establishes the safety of
IVIG and the feasibility of recruiting pregnant women
who have previously had a child with CHB. However,
IVIG at low doses consistent with replacement does not
prevent the recurrence of CHB or reduce maternal
antibody titers.
One of the strongest clinical associations with
autoantibodies directed to components of the SSA/Ro
SSB/La ribonucleoprotein complex is the development
of congenital heart block (CHB) in an offspring, an
alarming prospect facing 2% of mothers with these
reactivities (1,2). The risk is 10-fold higher in women
who have had a previously affected child (3–5). CHB
carries significant mortality (20–30%; primarily fetal/
neonatal) and morbidity (67% require permanent place-
ment of a pacemaker before adulthood) (5,6). Evidence
is emerging that in addition to conduction disease,
10–15% of affected offspring will have a life-threatening
cardiomyopathy (7,8).
One of the most disturbing observations to
emerge is the rapidity of disease progression, with
advanced heart block being detected within a week of
the presence of normal sinus rhythm (2). Biomarkers
such as prolongation of the fetal Doppler mechanical
PR interval have not convincingly demonstrated utility
in predicting advanced heart block (2). Consistent with
the fibrotic replacement of the atrioventricular (AV)
node observed in autopsy studies of fetuses dying of
CHB, sustained reversal of third-degree heart block has
never been achieved (2,9). Current prophylactic and
treatment strategies for CHB include maternal treat-
ment with steroids, plasmapheresis, or sympathomimet-
ics, as well as in utero cardiac pacing (9,10). None of
them have significantly altered mortality. Accordingly,
strategies aimed at preventing disease before immutable
scarring ensues assume high priority. Although it is
disappointing that animal models have not proven a
universally causal effect of the antibodies per se, this is
likely because antibodies are necessary but insufficient.
Our approach to prevention considered the necessity of
maternal antibody as well as consequent fetal factors in
the cascade to pathogenesis.
Treatment with intravenous immunoglobulin
(IVIG) has been of benefit in a variety of immune-
mediated and inflammatory diseases. The rationale for
its use in CHB is based on our working hypothesis of the
pathogenesis of disease. Tissue injury in the fetus is
presumed to depend on neonatal Fc
receptor (Fc
mediated transplacental passage of maternal IgG auto-
antibodies (11). Anti-SSA/Ro and anti-SSB/La antibod-
ies, by binding to translocated antigen on the surface of
apoptotic cardiocytes generated during remodeling of
the conduction system and surrounding tissue, may
inhibit the normal physiologic removal of these cells
(12). Uncleared opsonized apoptotic cardiocytes may
subsequently be efferocytosed by infiltrating macro-
phages, with release of proinflammatory and profibros-
ing cytokines, which transdifferentiate cardiac fibro-
blasts to a scarring phenotype (13,14). This scenario
supports the consideration of prophylactic therapy with
IVIG based on 2 presumed mechanisms of efficacy. The
first exploits the saturation of Fc
Rn by IVIG. This
should decrease fetal exposure to anti-SSA/Ro and
anti-SSB/La by accelerating IgG catabolism in the ma-
ternal circulation and by decreasing placental transport
(15,16). The second exploits the attenuation of antiin-
flammatory responses by increasing the macrophage
expression of Fc
RIIB (17). This would represent a
downstream effect in the targeted organ.
Precedent for the use of IVIG is the encouraging
report of only 1 recurrent case of CHB in 8 mothers with
previously affected children (18) as well as the data from
a murine study demonstrating a decrease in placental
transport of human anti-SSA/Ro and anti-SSB/La anti-
bodies following IVIG (19). Accordingly, a prospective,
US-based, multicenter, open-label trial to determine the
efficacy and safety of IVIG in the prevention of CHB in
the children of women with anti-SSA/Ro antibodies and
a previous child with neonatal lupus was initiated.
Treatment consisted of 400 mg/kg of IVIG given every 3
weeks from week 12 to week 24 of gestation. The
primary outcome was the development of second-degree
or third-degree CHB.
Study subjects. Patients were entered into the Preven-
tive IVIG Therapy for Congenital Heart Block (PITCH) study,
a multicenter, prospective, open-label clinical trial, between
January 2007 and Januar y 2009. A total of 17 women from
centers across the US signed consent forms that had been
approved by the Institutional Review Board at the site of their
infusion. Four mothers provided consent as participants in the
Research Registry for Neonatal Lupus (New York University
School of Medicine, New York, NY) to release medical
records and send blood specimens, but they received study
drug as prescribed by their treating physicians, who elected to
follow and adhere to the study protocol. Of the 21 women
enrolled, there was 1 screening failure: this patient had a
spontaneous miscarriage at 9 weeks prior to initiation of the
study protocol.
All of the following inclusion criteria were required for
study enrollment: 1) documentation of anti-SSA/Ro and/or
anti-SSB/La antibodies; 2) a previous child with 1 of the
following: (a) CHB (any degree) documented by electrocar-
diogram (EKG) if a live birth and/or by echocardiogram and/or
histologic findings if fetal death; (b) characteristic neonatal
lupus rash confirmed by photographs revealing annular le-
sions, dermatologic assessment, and/or biopsy findings; or (c)
CHB and neonatal lupus rash; and 3) current intrauterine
pregnancy of 12 weeks’ gestation, with normal heart beat and
heart structure. A patient was excluded from the study for any
of the following reasons: 1) current prednisone dosage 20
mg/day or current use of dexamethasone at any dosage, 2) IgA
levels below normal values for the laboratory conducting the
test, or 3) presence of any structural abnormalities of the fetal
heart that could cause CHB, such as L-transposition of the
great arteries, AV septal defect, or heterotaxias.
Mothers could be clinically asymptomatic or could
have symptoms of a rheumatic disease. Rheumatic diseases
were classified according to the case report forms completed
by the participating rheumatologists, obstetricians, and cardi-
ologists performing the echocardiograms and verified by tele-
phone interviews and review of medical records when available
(by JPB, CL, and PMI). The following categories were as-
signed: 1) asymptomatic—if the patient denied having any
clinical symptoms that would be consistent with a diagnosis of
systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or Sjo¨gren’s syndrome
(SS); 2) undifferentiated autoimmune syndrome—if there
were insufficient criteria for a diagnosis of SLE or SS; 3)
SLE—if 4 of the 11 criteria of the American College of
Rheumatology were satisfied (20); 4) possible, probable, or
definite SS—if the patient had at least dry eyes and dry mouth
or only 1 of these 2 symptoms plus evidence of objective
criteria in addition to autoantibodies, according to the
American–European Consensus Group criteria (21); or 5)
SLE and SS—if the criteria for both were met.
Study design. The trial was designed as an open-label
study using Simon’s 2-stage optimal design (22) to allow for
early stopping due to absence of treatment efficacy. The first
stage required 19 study subjects. If 3 or more mothers had
children with second-degree or third-degree CHB, then the
study would be terminated after the first stage. If this did not
occur, an additional 35 mothers would be enrolled in the
second stage for a total of 54 subjects. At the end of trial, the
treatment would be considered efficacious if fewer than 6 of 54
mothers had a child with advanced CHB. With this design, the
study had 90% power to conclude that IVIG is efficacious if
the true recurrence rate with the treatment is 5%. In addition,
the probability of rejecting the treatment for further study is
95% if the true recurrence rate is 19% (3,5). It should be noted
that the enrollment goal for the first stage was exceeded by 2
patients because of an initial concern that there might be a
screening failure due to miscarriage (which occurred in 1 case).
Treatments and followup. IVIG infusions of 400 mg/kg
were given over 3–4 hours at 12 weeks, 15 weeks, 18 weeks, 21
weeks, and 24 weeks of gestation. Blood samples were ob-
tained before each infusion and at 28 weeks, 34 weeks, and
delivery (including cord blood). Fetal echocardiograms were to
be performed weekly between week 16 and week 26 of
gestation and then every 2 weeks thereafter until week 34, in
accordance with the protocol of the PR Interval and Dexa-
methasone Evaluation (PRIDE) study (2). The echocardio-
grams were recorded on VHS videotape or DVD/optical disk
by the patient’s pediatric cardiologist or obstetrician. The
image copies were sent to the core fetal echocardiographic
laboratory, where they were reread by one of us (DMF).
End points. The primary outcome was second-degree
or third-degree AV block. The secondary outcomes were as
follows: 1) sustained first-degree AV block, as defined by a
prolonged mechanical PR interval (PR 150 msec [i.e., above
the normal mean 3SD]) (23) that did not progress to more
advanced forms of AV block throughout the study and was
subsequently confirmed by EKG at birth; 2) transiently pro-
longed mechanical PR interval; 3) any sign of myocardial
injury, such as reduced contractility, tricuspid regurgitation, or
effusions, without change in cardiac rate or rhythm; 4) echo-
cardiographic densities consistent with endocardial fibroelas-
tosis that was confirmed postnatally; 5) fetal death not related
to cardiac dysfunction; 6) rash consistent with neonatal lupus;
7) prematurity, which was defined as a gestational age at birth
of 37 weeks; 8) birth weight less than 10% in the context of
gestational age; and 9) abnormal fluid collection in the fetus,
consistent with hydrops.
Laboratory studies. Blood samples were separated
into aliquots and maintained at –70°C. For each patient, serial
samples obtained according to the study protocol were stored
until the pregnancy was completed. The evaluation of antibody
titers and total IgG in all maternal blood samples and corre-
sponding cord blood samples was completed on the same day.
Titers of antibodies to anti-SSA/Ro and/or anti-SSB/La were
determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA;
Diamedix, Miami, FL). In this commercial test, the cutoff
value for normal has been established at 19 ELISA units/ml for
both SSA/Ro and SSB/La. Titers of antibodies to Ro 52 kd
were determined by ELISA using recombinant Ro 52 as
previously described (24). IgG levels were determined by radial
immunodiffusion using a BN ProSpec automated analyzer
system (Dade-Behring/Siemens Healthcare, Deerfield, IL).
Statistical analysis. Changes from baseline in maternal
antibody titers measured at specific time points during preg-
nancy were evaluated with the paired t-test. P values less than
0.05 (2-sided) were considered statistically significant.
Demographic features and study population. The
demographic characteristics of the patients, including
health and antibody status and obstetrical history, are
summarized in Table 1. Twenty mothers completed
IVIG treatments, and 19 of them gave birth. The
majority of enrollees were Caucasian (80%). The ma-
ternal diagnoses at the time of enrollment in the study
were as follows: 3 (15%) were classified as asymptom-
atic, 7 (35%) as having undifferentiated autoimmune
syndrome, 5 (25%) as having SS, 4 (20%) as having SLE
with secondary SS, and 1 as having rheumatoid arthritis
with secondary SS. Sixteen (80%) of the patients had
antibodies to SSB/La in addition to SSA/Ro. Eighteen
(90%) of the enrolled patients had a previous pregnancy
that was complicated by CHB (1 had 2 children with
CHB), and 2 had a previous child with a neonatal lupus
rash. In 8 (40%) of the mothers, the previous pregnancy
complicated by CHB ended in fetal death. Four (20%)
of the patients were taking prednisone at a dosage 20
mg/day (mean dosage 9.5 mg/day; range 8–10 mg/day)
during the study, and 2 mothers were taking hydroxy-
chloroquine at a dosage of 400 mg/day throughout their
Fetal outcomes. Twenty mothers completed the
IVIG infusions (1 woman received only 4 doses of
IVIG), and 19 mothers gave birth. Seventeen fetuses
completed serial echocardiograms and showed normal
PR intervals (Figure 1) and had normal EKG findings at
birth. Of these 17 fetuses, 1 neonate presented with a
rash consistent with neonatal lupus several days after
Three fetuses were diagnosed as having advanced
heart block. The first case of CHB was detected at 19
weeks of gestation in a mother who had received 3 doses
of IVIG at weeks 12, 15, and 18. The fetal echocardio-
Table 1. Demographic characteristics of the 20 mothers enrolled in
the study
No. (%) of
Maternal race/ethnicity
Caucasian 16 (80)
Asian 2 (10)
African American 1 (5)
Hispanic 1 (5)
Maternal diagnosis
Asymptomatic/UAS 10 (50)
SS 5 (25)
SS/SLE 4 (20)
RA/SS 1 (5)
Maternal obstetric history
Previous child with cardiac neonatal lupus 18 (90)
CHB with live birth 10 (50)
CHB with fetal death 7 (35)
Fatal cardiomyopathy plus first degree 1 (5)
Previous child with neonatal lupus rash 2 (10)
Maternal antibody status
Anti-SSA/Ro and anti-SSB/La 16 (80)
Anti-SSA/Ro only 4 (20)
Anti–Ro 52 kd 20 (100)
Maternal medications
Prednisone 20 mg/day 4 (20)
Hydroxychloroquine 400 mg/day 2 (10)
* UAS undifferentiated autoimmune syndrome; SS Sjo¨gren’s
syndrome; SLE systemic lupus erythematosus; RA rheumatoid
arthritis; CHB congenital heart block.
Figure 1. Mechanical Doppler PR interval for congenital heart block (CHB) and non-CHB pregnancies.
Mean and SD values calculated for each gestational week are illustrated. For the non-CHB group, values
obtained between week 16 and week 34 are shown; in addition, the mean 3SD and the mean
3SD in the non-CHB group are shown. For the 3 fetuses with CHB, only values prior to the detection
of CHB are shown. PR intervals for the fetuses with CHB are all within the normal range (mean 3SD),
and thus, first-degree atrioventricular block did not precede advanced CHB.
gram obtained at the time of detection revealed third-
degree heart block with mild tricuspid regurgitation and
no hydrops. The previous fetal echocardiogram at 17
weeks of gestation revealed a normal PR interval and no
signs of valvular dysfunction. Once CHB was diagnosed,
the patient began taking dexamethasone at a dosage of 4
mg/day for 10 days, with no effect on the fetal heart
rhythm. The patient delivered at 37 weeks of gestation.
The neonate was small for its gestational age, and a
permanent pacemaker was placed immediately after
birth. In addition, the postnatal echocardiogram showed
a moderate secundum atrial septal defect, which was
corrected by surgical closure at 2 months of age.
CHB was diagnosed in the second fetus at 20
weeks of gestation, after the mother had received 3
doses of IVIG. Routine weekly fetal echocardiograms
were performed according to the study protocol from 16
weeks of gestation, and each showed a normal PR
interval. Two weeks after the third infusion, the fetal
echocardiogram revealed second-degree Wenckebach-
type block, with occasional dropped beats. The mother
was prescribed 1 oral dose of 4 mg of dexamethasone
and received a total of 2 gm/kg of IVIG plus intravenous
dexamethasone at a dosage of 4 mg/day for 2 days.
However, second-degree CHB progressed to third-
degree CHB within 2 days. There was no evidence of
tricuspid regurgitation, effusions, or hydropic changes.
The baby was born at 37 weeks of gestation and was
Figure 2. Antibody titers and IgG levels during pregnancy. There were no significant decreases in the titers of anti-SSA/Ro,
anti-SSB/La, anti–Ro 52 kd, or IgG levels in the mothers who received intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy. Two of the 3
women whose pregnancies resulted in a fetus with congenital heart block (CHB) received only 3 doses of IVIG. The third mother
received only 4 doses. The findings in each of these 3 women are shown separately. CHB 2 did not have SSB/La antibodies. EU
enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay units.
small for its gestational age. The postnatal echocardio-
gram confirmed third-degree CHB with normal systolic
function. A pacemaker was implanted at 7 days of age.
A third CHB case was detected at 25 weeks of
gestation, after the mother had received 4 IVIG infu-
sions. Previous fetal PR intervals during the pregnancy
had been normal up to 22 weeks of gestation; however,
the mother missed the week 23 and week 24 fetal
echocardiograms, and third-degree block was detected
at 25 weeks of gestation. After discussion with her
physician, the patient decided to take only 1 dose of 4 mg
of dexamethasone. The fetal echocardiogram performed
during her last evaluation at 30 weeks of gestation
showed no signs of hydrops, tricuspid regurgitation, or
effusions. The ventricular rates were above 96 beats per
Two of the 3 mothers whose pregnancies were
complicated by CHB were classified as having SLE with
secondary SS at the time of enrollment, and the other
was classified as having undifferentiated autoimmune
syndrome. In addition to anti-SSA/Ro antibodies, 2 of
the mothers had anti-SSB/La antibodies, and each of
them also had anti–Ro 52–kd antibodies. One of these
mothers had 2 previous children with CHB. The other 2
mothers had 1 previous pregnancy complicated by CHB,
1 of which ended in fetal death. The study was stopped
at this point, according to the predetermined rule.
Maternal antibody titers. Sera obtained from
mothers who completed the study were available for
evaluation of anti-SSA/Ro and SSB/La titers. Antibody
titers assessed before every IVIG infusion, at 28 weeks,
at 34 weeks, and at the time of delivery were compared
with those obtained at baseline. As shown in Figure 2,
treatment with IVIG did not significantly alter the titers
of anti-SSA/Ro, anti–Ro 52 kd, or anti-SSB/La antibod-
ies (P 0.05 for all comparisons).
Safety data. There were no changes in maternal
blood pressure and no severe headaches, rashes, fever,
or any other adverse effects related to the infusions.
There were no serious adverse events. Neonatal growth
data are presented in Table 2. Weight, height, and head
circumference were derived from gestational age–
specific growth curves to correct for prematurity when
necessary. Four (21%) of the newborns (2 with CHB and
2 healthy) were small for their gestational age (10%),
and 3 (16%) were born prematurely (37 weeks of
gestation). One of the mothers with a healthy baby who
was small for its gestational age and 2 of the mothers
with premature babies took prednisone during their
This study recruited 21 mothers, 20 of whom
received prophylactic IVIG to prevent autoimmune-
associated CHB in their children. The study was discon-
tinued after reaching the stopping rule of detecting 3
cases of CHB in the first 19 patients who were enrolled.
There were no significant changes in the titers of anti-
bodies to SSA/Ro or SSB/La, as determined by commer-
cial ELISA in a central laboratory, or in the titer of
antibodies to Ro 52 kd. No safety issues were raised in
this pilot study.
In parallel with enrollment in the PITCH study, a
European study was initiated in December 2004. The
treatment protocol was identical to that used in the
PITCH study. The European study was terminated after
3 cases of CHB were identified, following enrollment of
15 mothers who had previously affected children with
CHB (25). Combining data generated from the 2 studies
in which the prior pregnancy was CHB and not rash,
there were 6 cases of recurrent CHB in 33 mothers (15
UK and 18 US), which is consistent with the recently
reported recurrence rate of 17.4% (4) and confirms that
IVIG at a dosage of 400 mg/kg given every 3 weeks
beginning at week 12 of gestation is not effective in
reducing the incidence of recurrent disease.
IVIG is approved by the Food and Drug Admin-
istration for treatment of primary immunodeficiency,
idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, Kawasaki disease,
B cell–chronic lymphocytic leukemia with hypogamma-
globulinemia, pediatric infection with human immuno-
deficiency virus, and allogeneic bone marrow transplan-
tation in adults (26). Several mechanisms have been
posited to account for the effects of IVIG in
autoantibody-mediated disorders, but none of them
satisfactorily explains all of the clinical situations.
Table 2. Growth and safety data in the 19 neonates
Characteristic at birth No. (%) of children
10% 4 (21)
10–50% 7 (37)
51–90% 8 (42)
10% 3 (16)
10–50% 6 (32)
51–90% 10 (52)
Head circumference
10% 3 (16)
10–50% 6 (32)
51–90% 8 (42)
Unknown 2 (11)
Immunomodulator y properties attributed to
IVIG include down-regulation by antiidiotypic antibod-
ies and effects on receptors for cytokines and comple-
ment (27). Administration of IVIG in a murine model
was shown to inhibit autoantibody-mediated thrombocy-
topenia by inducing inhibitory Fc
RIIB receptors on
macrophages (17). Recently reported data support the
notion that a structure within the Fc portion of IVIG, an
N-linked glycan terminating in sialic acid in 2,6 linkage
to the penultimate galactose, is a requisite for activity
(28). The 2,6-sialylated Fc interacts with a lectin identi-
fied as SIGN-R1, which is expressed on marginal zone
macrophages, to initiate an antiinflammatory pathway
that ultimately modifies the ability of effector macro-
phages to trigger activation via Fc
receptors in re-
sponse to autoantibody deposition. One pathway by
which this may be accomplished is through enhanced
expression of Fc
RIIB, the inhibitory FcR, on these
effector macrophages. Although the applicability of
these findings to the pathogenesis of CHB is unknown, it
is notable that the fully processed glycan is found in only
1–3% of IgG in IVIG.
Further experimental evidence from murine
models has demonstrated that maternal administration
of IVIG significantly inhibits the transplacental passage
of maternal antibodies; in one case, anti-SSA/Ro and
SSB/La antibodies (19) and in another, antiplatelet
antibodies (16). In the latter model of fetal/neonatal
alloimmune thrombocytopenia, levels of pathogenic an-
tibodies were decreased in both the maternal and fetal
circulation (16). In fact, a highly emphasized explanation
unifying the beneficial action of IVIG is accelerated
catabolism of IgG, which is mediated by saturation of
Rn receptors (15,29).
Accordingly, IVIG was considered a promising
candidate for the prevention of CHB based on several
potential mechanisms, the first 2 of which are related to
lowering or even eliminating maternal antibody in the
fetal circulation (maternal perspective): increased catab-
olism of maternal antibody and decreased placental
transport of maternal antibody. Unknown, however, is
the threshold level of antibody needed to cause injury
and whether IVIG can effectively lower the level below
the threshold needed to bind apoptotic cells and trigger
an inflammatory/fibrosing sequence. The third consider-
ation is an effect of IVIG transported into the fetal
circulation, where it might act to up-regulate surface
expression of the inhibitory Fc
RIIB receptors on fetal
macrophages, thereby decreasing secretion of proin-
flammatory and profibrosing cytokines (fetal perspec-
tive). Accordingly, modulation of inhibitory signaling
could be a potent therapeutic strategy for attenuating
autoantibody-triggered inflammatory diseases. Highly
speculative would be an antiapoptotic effect of IVIG,
which would certainly be relevant to the pathogenesis of
CHB, in which there is evidence that apoptosis of
cardiocytes provides an essential link between antibody
and fibrosis (30).
The decision to use the 400 mg/kg dose of IVIG
was based on safety, efficacy, and cost issues. The
replacement dose of IVIG is generally considered to be
between 300 and 500 mg/kg. Consistent with the serum
half-life of IgG, this dosing is repeated every 3–4 weeks
to maintain a protective serum level (for review, see ref.
31). The extent to which and the timing of when IVIG
might decrease placental transport of the autoantibodies
are unknown, since it is acknowledged that antibody
transport across the human placenta is minimal at 12
weeks of gestation. In addition, the dose we adminis-
tered was based on the body weight of the mother, but
clearly, the effect was not necessarily intended to achieve
a lowering of the mother’s total autoantibody burden. It
was also hypothesized that this dose might achieve an
antiinflammatory effect in the fetus, which would sup-
port the lower dose if based on the weight of the fetus
and not that of the mother. The Finnish trial, which was
the only published study of preventive IVIG therapy in
CHB, comprised only 2 doses of 1 gm/kg (18); thus, the
cumulative doses used in our study were identical.
A potential reason for the absence of observed
efficacy relates to underdosing of the IVIG. Antiinflam-
matory doses of IVIG have been reported in the range
of 1–3 gm/kg of body weight (for review, see ref. 31). The
absence of a change in maternal antibody titers could be
a reflection of the low dose. Precedent for IVIG lower-
ing of antibody titers as a biomarker of effect in humans
is the report of serologic (decreased antibody) and
clinical remission in patients with bullous pemphigus
treated with IVIG (32). Whether a significant decrease
in antibody titer can be used as a reliable biomarker of
drug coverage has not been established. Precedent for
the use of higher doses and the presumed safety of IVIG
during pregnancy are represented by studies on an-
tiphospholipid antibody–associated fetal loss and fetal
alloimmune thrombocytopenia (33,34).
A clear limitation of the study is the open-label
design. The decision against randomization was made
based on several assumptions. The recurrence rate was
estimated at 19% based on available published data at
the time the study was designed (3,5). After discussion
among the coinvestigators, it was decided that a clini-
cally meaningful outcome of therapy would be at least a
50% decrease in the predicted recurrence rate. Based on
power calculations, if improvement from 19% to 10%
were the case, enrollment of 261 mothers who had had a
child with CHB would be required per group to com-
plete a randomized controlled study. Even if IVIG
therapy could decrease the recurrence rate to 5%, such
a study would require enrollment of 97 mothers per
group. Given the 2% frequency of CHB in anti-SSA/Ro
positive mothers unselected for prior disease and the
average yearly enrollment of 2 patients per month in the
Research Registry for Neonatal Lupus, it was deemed
highly unlikely that these enrollment goals could be
achieved. Indeed, the current US study took 2 years to
achieve enrollment for the first phase of our study, and
the European study required 4 years to enroll 15 pa-
tients. Furthermore, the likelihood that all patients
would agree to randomization knowing a potentially
effective therapy was being studied was deemed exceed-
ingly rare.
In summary, this study using Simon’s optimal
design showed that IVIG at 400 mg/kg given on a
triweekly schedule from week 12 to week 24 of gestation
is ineffective as a prevention of CHB in pregnancies at
risk of CHB recurrence. This finding was corroborated
by the European study, which used an identical protocol.
However, the results support the feasibility of recruiting
high-risk patients, and given the irreversibility of ad-
vanced heart block, continued efforts at prevention are
needed. These could include consideration of higher
doses of IVIG to exploit an antiinflammatory effect or
other approaches to the inhibition of macrophage sig-
naling and/or fibroblast promotion of scar.
Addendum. Since acceptance of this article for
publication, the final CHB-affected pregnancy has been
completed. The boy was delivered by cesarean section at
38 weeks and weighed 3,373 gm, with a length of 53 cm.
At age 5 months, the block is still third-degree, but he
maintains heart rates of 100 bpm and does not require
pacing. A second child in the PITCH study developed a
rash at 4 months following exposure to the sun.
We thank the members of the independent Advisory
Board for their work on this study: Joan Merrill, MD, Ware
Branch, MD, and Bonnie Bermas, MD. We also thank Amy
Lawless for help in preparing the manuscript.
All authors were involved in drafting the article or revising it
critically for important intellectual content, and all authors approved
the final version to be published. Dr. Llanos had full access to all of the
data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data
and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Study conception and design. Friedman, Llanos, Izmirly, Brock,
Byron, Copel, Graves, Reisner, Buyon.
Acquisition of data. Friedman, Llanos, Izmirly, Brock, Byron, Copel,
Cummiskey, Dooley, Foley, Graves, Hendershott, Kates, Komissarova,
Miller, Pare´, Phoon, Prosen, Reisner, Ruderman, Samuels, Yu, Kim,
Analysis and interpretation of data. Friedman, Llanos, Izmirly, Brock,
Byron, Copel, Graves, Phoon, Buyon.
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    • "higher in women who already have a child with AVB or cutaneous impairment, various treatments have been studied as secondary preventive measures. Corticosteroids [43] and intravenous immunoglobulins are not effective [44,45]. Use of hydroxychloroquine could reduce the risk of relapse of AVB [46] and an international prospective study is currently underway to assess the value of the drug in this indication (PATCH study, ClinicalTrials.gov: "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A causal link has long been described between estrogen and systemic lupus erythematosus activity. Contraceptive and pregnancy management is now common for lupus patients, but pregnancy continues to be associated with higher maternal and fetal mortality/morbidity in systemic lupus erythematosus patients than among the general population. Potential complications include lupus flares, obstetric complications (fetal loss, in utero growth retardation, premature birth) and neonatal lupus syndrome. Association with antiphospholipid antibodies or antiphospholipid syndrome increases the risk of obstetric complications. Anti-SSA and/or anti-SSB antibodies put fetuses at risk for neonatal lupus. Improving the outcome of such pregnancies depends upon optimal systematic planning of pregnancy at a preconception counseling visit coupled with a multidisciplinary approach. Absence of lupus activity, use of appropriate medication during pregnancy based on the patient's medical history and risk factors, and regular monitoring constitute the best tools for achieving a favorable outcome in such high-risk pregnancies. The aim of this review is to provide an update on the management of contraception and pregnancy in systemic lupus erythematosus, cutaneous lupus and/or antiphospholipid syndrome in order to reduce the risk of complications and to ensure the best maternal and fetal prognosis.
    Article · Apr 2016
    • "Lorsqu'une femme a eu un enfant avec BAVc, le risque de récurrence du BAVc lors d'une grossesse ultérieure est de l'ordre de 19 % (données sur 257 grossesses issues des observatoires américain, franç ais et d'une série européenne) [15]. Le risque était de 16 % dans deux séries prospectives de 44 grossesses [16] [17]. Le risque d'avoir une manifestation de LN quelle qu'elle soit est estimé à 22 % sur des données rétrospectives [7] "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neonatal lupus syndrome is associated with transplacental passage of maternal anti-SSA/Ro and anti-SSB/La antibodies. Children display cutaneous, hematological, liver or cardiac features. Cardiac manifestations include congenital heart block (CHB); endocardial fibroelastosis and dilated cardiomyopathy. The prevalence of CHB in newborns of anti-Ro/SSA positive women with known connective tissue disease is between 1 and 2 % and the risk of recurrence is around 19 %. Skin and systemic lesions are transient, whereas CHB is definitive and associated with significant morbidity and a mortality of 18 %. A pacemaker must be implanted in 2/3 of cases. Myocarditis may be associated or appear secondly. Mothers of children with CHB are usually asymptomatic or display Sjogren's syndrome or undifferentiated connective tissue disease. In anti-Ro/SSA positive pregnant women, fetal echocardiography should be performed at least every 2 weeks from the 16th to 24th week gestation. An electrocardiogram should be performed for all newborn babies. The benefit of fluorinated corticosteroid therapy for CHB detected in utero remains unclear. Maternal use of hydroxychloroquine may be associated with a decreased recurrent CHB risk in a subsequent offspring. A prospective study is actually ongoing to confirm these findings.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Clinical and Developmental Immunology
    • "The risk is five to tenfold higher in women who previously had an affected child with either CHB or a neonatal lupus rash [1] [2]. Fetuses with CHB carry high rates of mortality (20%) and morbidity (>60% of the surviving children require a permanent pacemaker in adulthood) [3] [4]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background: The presence of anti-SSA/Ro and anti-SSB/La antibodies during pregnancy is associated with fetal congenital heart block (CHB), which is primarily diagnosed through fetal echocardiography. Conclusive information about the complete electrophysiology of the fetal cardiac conducting system is still lacking. In addition to echocardiography, fetal magnetocardiography (fMCG) can be used. fMCG is the magnetic analogue of the fetal electrocardiogram (ECG). Patients and methods: Forty-eight pregnant women were enrolled in an observational study; 16 of them tested positive for anti-SSA/Ro and anti-SSB/La antibodies. In addition to routine fetal echocardiography, fMCG was used. Fetal cardiac time intervals (fCTIs) were extracted from the magnetic recordings by predefined procedures. ECGs in the neonates of the study group were performed within the first month after delivery. Results: The PQ segment of the fCTI was significantly prolonged in the study group (P = 0.007), representing a delay of the electrical impulse in the atrioventricular (AV) node. Other fCTIs were within normal range. None of the anti-SSA/Ro and/or anti-SSB/La fetuses progressed to a more advanced heart block during pregnancy or after birth. Conclusion: The study identified a low-risk population within antibody positive mothers, where PQ segment prolongation is associated with a lack of progression of the disease.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2012
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