Long-term, drug-free remission of sympathetic ophthalmia with high-dose, short-term chlorambucil therapy

Sarju S. Patel, Emilio M. Dodds, Laura V. Echandi, Cristobal A. Couto, Ariel Schlaen, Howard H. Tessler, Debra A. Goldstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective To evaluate the safety and effectiveness of short-term, high-dose chlorambucil therapy in achieving long-term, drug-free remission in the treatment of sympathetic ophthalmia (SO). Design Retrospective case series. Participants Sixteen patients with SO treated with high-dose, short-term chlorambucil therapy between 1970 and 2010. Methods Descriptive and bivariate analyses were used to characterize disease and outcomes. Main Outcome Measures Months of disease-free remission, prevalence rate of relapse, and prevalence of serious treatment-related adverse events. Results Sixteen patients with SO treated with short-term, high-dose chlorambucil were identified. Patients were treated with chlorambucil for a median of 14.0 weeks (mean, 14.5 weeks; range, 12.0-19.0 weeks). Median follow-up was 98.5 months (mean, 139.1 months; range, 48-441 months) from initiation of chlorambucil therapy. Control of inflammation was achieved in 100% of patients. Thirteen patients (81.3%) maintained vision of 20/40 or better in the sympathizing eye. Four patients (25%) relapsed after a median of 83 months (mean, 131 months) after cessation of systemic therapy. Seventy-five percent of relapses were controlled with topical therapy only. Conjunctival Kaposi's sarcoma developed in 1 patient. No patient demonstrated systemic malignancy. Conclusions Short-term, high-dose chlorambucil therapy provides sustained periods of drug-free remission. With median follow-up of more than 8 years (mean, 11.6 years; range, 4-37 years), there was a low rate of recurrence and minimal long-term serious health consequences or adverse events. Because SO may be a lifelong condition and because chlorambucil therapy may offer long-term, drug-free remission, this treatment may be worth considering early in the decision-making process for severe sight-threatening disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)596-602
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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