To describe onset clinical features predicting time to first relapse and time to long-term visual, motor and cognitive disabilities in paediatric-onset aquaporin-4 antibody (AQP4-IgG) neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSDs).
In this retrospective UK multicentre cohort study, we recorded clinical data of paediatric-onset AQP4-IgG NMOSD. Univariate and exploratory multivariable Cox proportional hazard models were used to identify long-term predictors of permanent visual disability, Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score of 4 and cognitive impairment.
We included 49 paediatric-onset AQP4-IgG patients (38.8% white, 34.7% black, 20.4% Asians and 6.1% mixed), mean onset age of 12±4.1 years, and 87.7% were female. Multifocal onset presentation occurred in 26.5% of patients, and optic nerve (47%), area postrema/brainstem (48.9%) and encephalon (28.6%) were the most involved areas. Overall, 52.3% of children had their first relapse within 1 year from disease onset. Children with onset age <12 years were more likely to have an earlier first relapse (p=0.030), despite showing no difference in time to immunosuppression compared with those aged 12–18 years at onset. At the cohort median disease duration of 79 months, 34.3% had developed permanent visual disability, 20.7% EDSS score 4 and 25.8% cognitive impairment. Visual disability was associated with white race (p=0.032) and optic neuritis presentations (p=0.002). Cognitive impairment was predicted by cerebral syndrome presentations (p=0.048), particularly if resistant to steroids (p=0.034).
Age at onset, race, onset symptoms and resistance to acute therapy at onset attack predict first relapse and long-term disabilities. The recognition of these predictors may help to power future paediatric clinical trials and to direct early therapeutic decisions in AQP4-IgG NMOSD.