Background: Despite the increased use of rituximab in treating pediatric patients with autoimmune diseases in the last decade, there are limited data on rituximab safety in those subjects who have a developing immune system. The objective of this study is to determine the prevalence of hypogammaglobulinemia in children with autoimmune disease receiving rituximab within the first three years of treatment in the pediatric rheumatology clinic at a tertiary care center. Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of 63 pediatric subjects who received rituximab for the treatment of their autoimmune disease. Immunoglobulin gamma (IgG) levels, immunosuppressive medication and the need for immunoglobulin replacement therapy were evaluated. Hypogammaglobulinemia was defined as a serum IgG level less than two standard deviations below the mean for age-matched healthy controls. Results: Twenty-eight patients (44%) were found to have hypogammaglobulinemia. Hypogammaglobulinemia occurred within the first six months of rituximab treatment in the majority of patients (22 out of 28). The occurrence of hypogammaglobulinemia varied based on the rituximab indication: 46% pediatric Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), 71% autoimmune CNS disease, 60% ANCA vasculitis, and 12% in the miscellaneous group. Autoimmune CNS disease had more severe hypogammaglobulinemia, more persistent and was associated with more frequent or severe infections. Three patients with autoimmune CNS disease and one with SLE were given IgG replacement therapy to prevent recurrent or severe infections. Conclusions: The prevalence of hypogammaglobulinemia in rituximab treated children with autoimmune disease seems to be higher than published data for adults, especially for children with autoimmune CNS disease. The onset of hypogammaglobulinemia is usually within six months of initiation of rituximab therapy. We recommend: 1) obtaining an IgG level prior to starting rituximab; 2) close monitoring for hypogammaglobulinemia after the use of rituximab in pediatric patients and 3) early institution of immunoglobulin replacement therapy if patients develop recurrent infections.
- And ANCA vasculitis
- Autoimmune CNS diseases
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Immunology and Allergy