Primary warm autoimmune hemolytic anemia (WAIHA) is a rare autoimmune disorder frequently responding to corticosteroid first-line treatment and effective second-line treatment options such as splenectomy or anti-CD20 antibody therapy. Disease management is frequently hampered by a lack of evidence.
We have investigated the probability of sustained treatment-free remission after steroid induction to facilitate clinical decision making regarding timing and necessity of second-line treatments. Response data from 31 patients with primary WAIHA initially treated with steroids were retrospectively analyzed. All patients responded by achieving a hemoglobin of at least 10 mg/dl.
After steroid tapering and final withdrawal, 9 of 30 patients remained in unsustained complete remission (CR). The probability of remaining in CR after steroid treatment only was 38.2 % (2 SD 20.6 %) at 15 months. The median remission duration was 100 + months with a range of 12 + to 163 + months. Of note, none of the remaining patients still on steroids achieved CR beyond 15 + months.
These data indicate that a considerable proportion of patients do not need further treatment and that relapses will not occur after 15 months in CR.