Changes in Disease Activity and Damage over Time in Patients with Morphea

Jack C. O'Brien, Hugh Nymeyer, Allison Green, Heidi T. Jacobe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Importance: Prospective studies of the disease course in patients with morphea are lacking, particularly those comparing adults and children. Objective: To investigate the disease course in patients with morphea treated with standard-of-care therapy using validated clinical outcome measures. Design, Setting, and Participants: Prospective cohort study of 130 adults and children from the Morphea in Adults and Children cohort with at least 2 years of clinical follow-up and Localized Scleroderma Cutaneous Assessment Tool scores recorded at each study visit. Study patients were seen at a tertiary referral center (UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas) from November 1, 2008, through April 1, 2016. The dates of analysis were May 2016 through July 2019. Exposures: All patients received standard-of-care therapy. Main Outcomes and Measures: Patterns in disease activity and recurrence were examined. The time to recurrence of morphea disease activity from the first visit with inactive disease was assessed using survival analysis with the log-rank test to compare differences between morphea subtypes. Results: In total, 130 adults and children (663 study visits) were included in this study. The mean (SD) age of patients was 34.4 (23.8) years, and 101 of 130 (78%) were female. The mean (SD) follow-up was 4.3 (1.7) years. Fifty patients had at least 5 years of follow-up. Most patients were white individuals (96 of 130 [74%]) and had linear subtype (72 of 130 [55%]) or generalized subtype (40 of 130 [31%]). Overall, 13 of 30 (43%) with generalized subtype had recurrence of disease activity compared with 14 of 66 (21%) with linear subtype (hazard ratio, 3.28; 95% CI, 1.38-7.79). The median (interquartile range) time to first recurrence of disease activity after initial resolution of disease activity was 1.1 (0.8-1.9) years for generalized subtype and 2.3 (1.0-3.3) years for linear subtype. Of the 50 patients followed up for at least 5 years, 18 (36%) had recurrence of disease activity. Conclusions and Relevance: Disease activity appeared to improve in most patients with morphea over 6 to 12 months using previously published treatment plans, underscoring their effectiveness. Sclerosis improved more slowly (over 2-5 years), often after discontinuation of treatment, but atrophy increased slightly as sclerosis subsided. Standard-of-care therapy appears to improve disease activity, which allows sclerosis to improve, and provides relative stability of other features of disease damage. A substantial number of patients, particularly those with generalized subtype, have a relapsing-remitting course over many years. Patients with morphea should be monitored for recurrent disease activity over extended periods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-520
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Dermatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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