Immunotherapy for recurrent pregnancy loss: analysis of results from clinical trials.

C B Coulam
M Stephenson
J J Stern
D A Clark


PROBLEM: Up to 80% of unexplained recurrent spontaneous abortions (RSA) are thought to have an immunologic mechanism. Yet clinical trials using immunotherapy to treat women experiencing RSA have low treatment effects. The present study was undertaken to explain the low treatment effects.

METHODS: Results of clinical trials using allogeneic leukocyte immunization and intravenous (IV) immunoglobulin (Ig) are compared. The mechanisms of pregnancy loss are reviewed in light of data on frequency of karyotype abnormalities in trophoblast of failing pregnancies.

RESULTS: Results of two independent analyses using allogeneic leukocyte immunization as immunotherapy for all women with RSA revealed live birth ratios of 1.16 (P = 0.03) and 1.21 (P = 0.02). When the analysis was limited to primary aborters, the live birth ratio increased to 1.46 (P = 0.006). Live birth ratio after immunotherapy for all RSA using IVIg was 1.88 (P = 0.04). Because of low treatment effects, confounders to treatment success of maternal age and number of previous abortions were studied. Chromosomal abnormalities have been identified in 55% of concepti from RSA. The frequency of chromosomal abnormalities remained constant for up to six pregnancy losses. Women with a history of primary compared to secondary RSA had a higher frequency of karyotypically abnormal concepti (chi 2 = 4.54, P < 0.05). Risk factors for RSA also include number of previous losses.

CONCLUSION: Chromosomal abnormalities are a significant confounder when evaluating efficacy of immunotherapy for treatment of RSA. Some women with RSA have a high risk of recurrent chromosomal problems.