Aim - To evaluate the clinical usefulness of methotrexate for patients with non-infectious orbital inflammatory disease who fail to respond to systemic corticosteroids and/or orbital irradiation. Methods - The medical records of patients with non-infectious orbital inflammatory disease who were treated with methotrexate at Oregon Health Sciences University between June 1993 and June 2000 were examined. Methotrexate was administered at a median maximum dose of 20 mg per week (range 15-25 mg per week) in conjunction with folate supplementation. Patients were followed with regular ophthalmic examinations, as well as serum liver enzyme levels and blood cell counts. Clinical signs of regression of the orbital inflammation, visual acuity, dosage and duration of methotrexate therapy, requirement for concurrent corticosteroid administration, and adverse drug reactions were recorded. Results - The study cohort included 14 patients (24 eyes) with diagnoses including non-specific orbital inflammation (n=7), Tolosa-Hunt syndrome (n=1), thyroid orbitopathy (n=3), Wegener's granulomatosis (n=1), sarcoidosis (n=1), and Erdheim-Chester disease (n=1). In all cases, methotrexate was commenced as a corticosteroid sparing agent. 10 patients (71%) completed a 4 month therapeutic trial of methotrexate. Median duration of treatment for the nine (64%) patients who experienced clinical benefit was 25 months (range 10-47 months). Six responders were ultimately able to cease methotrexate, including the single patient who required concurrent long term corticosteroid therapy. Complications included fatigue, gastrointestinal disturbance, hair thinning and mild, reversible serum liver enzyme elevation. Two patients (14%) discontinued treatment because of adverse effects. Conclusion - Methotrexate is a well tolerated immunosuppressive medication which may benefit patients with recalcitrant non-infectious orbital inflammatory disease.
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