Two new clinical guidance documents from the American College of Rheumatology provide evidence-based recommendations forduring the COVID-19 pandemic as well as diagnostic and treatment recommendations for (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19 infection.
Although several children’s hospitals have published their treatment protocols for MIS-C since the condition’s initial discovery, the ACR appears to be the first medical organization to review all the most current evidence to issue interim guidance with the expectations that it will change as more data become available.
“It is challenging having to make recommendations not having a lot of scientific evidence, but we still felt we had to use whatever’s out there to the best of our ability and use our experience to put together these recommendations,”, chief of pediatric rheumatology at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and an associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, said in an interview.
“We wanted to be mindful of the fact that there are things we know and things we don’t know, and we have to be careful about what we’re recommending,” said Dr. Wahezi, a member of the ACR working group that assembled the recommendations for pediatric rheumatic disease management during the pandemic. “We’re recommending the best we can at this moment, but if there are new studies that come out and suggest otherwise, we will definitely have to go back and amend the document.”
The foremost priority of the pediatric rheumatic disease guidance focuses on maintaining control of the disease and avoiding flares that may put children at greater risk of infection. Dr. Wahezi said the ACR has received many calls from patients and clinicians asking whether patients should continue their immunosuppressant medications. Fear of the coronavirus infection, medication shortages, difficulty getting to the pharmacy, uneasiness about going to the clinic or hospital for infusions, and other barriers may have led to gaps in medication.
“We didn’t want people to be too quick to hold patients’ medications just because they were scared of COVID,” Dr. Wahezi said. “If they did have medication stopped for one reason or another and their disease flared, having active disease, regardless of which disease it is, actually puts you at higher risk for infection. By controlling their disease, that would be the way to protect them the most.”
A key takeaway in the guidance on MIS-C, meanwhile, is an emphasis on its rarity lest physicians be too quick to diagnose it and miss another serious condition with overlapping symptoms, explained, an attending rheumatologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, Boston. Dr. Henderson participated in the ACR group that wrote the MIS-C guidance.
“The first thing we want to be thoughtful about clinically is to recognize that children in general with the acute infectious phase of SARS-CoV-2 have mild symptoms and generally do well,” Dr. Henderson said. “From what we can tell from all the data, MIS-C is rare. That really needs to be considered when clinicians on the ground are doing the diagnostic evaluation” because of concerns that clinicians “could rush to diagnose and treat patients with MIS-C and miss important diagnoses like malignancies and infections.”