Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
Resources
About MyAmyloidosisTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
Resources
About MyAmyloidosisTeam

Stages of Amyloidosis

Posted on August 23, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Mark Levin, M.D.
Article written by
Maureen McNulty

If you are diagnosed with amyloidosis, your doctor will try to determine the stage (how advanced the disease is). As you undergo amyloidosis treatments, your doctor may recommend tests to determine whether the disease is progressing (getting worse). These tests can help your doctor estimate your outlook (also called prognosis).

There are several types of amyloidosis. Each type is caused by different proteins and affects different organs. The type of amyloidosis a person has determines how their condition will be staged.

Staging Systems for Amyloid Light-Chain Amyloidosis

Amyloid light-chain amyloidosis (AL) or primary amyloidosis is a disorder caused by abnormal plasma cells (a type of white blood cell). Normal plasma cells produce infection-fighting antibodies, which are made up of heavy-chain and light-chain proteins. In amyloidosis, abnormal plasma cells make abnormal amyloid light chains. These proteins form clumps called amyloid fibrils that build up in the heart and other organs, causing damage. AL amyloidosis produces nonfunctional light chains.

Doctors use several different systems to stage AL amyloidosis. Although stages are calculated in different ways, they all describe your outlook and help you understand how well your organs are working. Some systems focus on heart damage, and others stage renal (kidney) disease.

Mayo Clinic Staging System

One common staging system for AL amyloidosis is the Mayo Clinic system. This system estimates the amount of heart damage.

The most recent version of this system determines the stage based on three biomarkers (molecules that serve as signs of disease). Two of the biomarkers, N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) and cardiac troponin T (cTnT), are signals of heart damage. The other biomarker (dFLC) is called the “difference between involved and uninvolved free light chains.” This biomarker describes how many of the body’s light-chain proteins are amyloid proteins compared with normal light-chain proteins.

Normal levels of these biomarkers are:

  • NT-proBNP — 1,800 nanograms per liter or less
  • cTnT — 0.025 nanograms per milliliter or less
  • dFLC — 180 milligrams per liter or less

The higher each of these biomarkers is, the later the amyloidosis stage and the more severe the disease is. People with early-stage AL amyloidosis live longer than people with advanced disease:

  • People with stage 1 AL amyloidosis have all biomarkers at normal levels and live an average of 7.8 years after being diagnosed.
  • People with stage 2 AL amyloidosis have one biomarker above normal levels and live an average of 3.4 years after diagnosis.
  • People with stage 3 AL amyloidosis have two biomarkers above normal levels and live an average of 14 months after being diagnosed.
  • People with stage 4 AL amyloidosis have all three biomarkers above normal levels and live an average of 5.8 months after diagnosis.

The European Modification

Some doctors use a system that was based on the original Mayo Clinic staging system but contains a slight modification. The European modification considers NT-proBNP and cTnT levels but not dFLC levels. The stages are grouped as follows:

  • Stage 1 — All biomarkers are at normal levels.
  • Stage 2 — One biomarker (either NT-proBNP or cTnT) is above normal levels.
  • Stage 3a — Levels are normal for cTnT. NT-proBNP is above normal levels but below 8,500 nanograms per liter.
  • Stage 3b — Levels are normal for cTnT, and NT-proBNP is above 8,500 nanograms per liter.

Cardiac Staging Using BNP

Some hospitals are not able to test for NT-proBNP. Therefore, researchers came up with a different system using a similar biomarker called BNP. This system also considers the cTnI biomarker in place of cTnT.

Normal levels of these biomarkers are less than 81 picograms per milliliter BNP and less than 0.1 nanograms per milliliter for cTnI.

People with AL amyloidosis who have normal levels of both biomarkers have stage 1 disease. If either biomarker is elevated, the amyloidosis is at stage 2. Having higher-than-normal levels of both biomarkers indicates stage 3 disease. If BNP levels are especially high — more than 700 picograms per milliliter — then doctors say amyloidosis is at stage 3b.

Other prognostic factors besides stage also influence the outlook for AL amyloidosis. These include high levels of plasma cells, the presence of monoclonal protein (also called M protein) in the urine, and certain gene changes.

Kidney Staging for AL Amyloidosis

Other staging systems help doctors understand the extent of kidney damage. Estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) and proteinuria (protein in the urine) are biomarkers that describe how well the kidneys are working.

Usually, eGFR is more than 50 milliliters per minute per 1.73 square meters, and proteinuria is less than 5 grams per 24 hours. Having abnormal levels means that the AL amyloidosis is at a later stage:

  • Stage 1 — Both biomarkers are at normal levels.
  • Stage 2 — Proteinuria is higher than the normal cutoff, or eGFR is lower than the normal cutoff.
  • Stage 3 — Both biomarkers are at abnormal levels.

Doctors use heart staging to determine survival rates for AL amyloidosis. However, kidney staging is used to predict whether someone will develop kidney failure. People with later-stage AL amyloidosis are more likely to have kidney problems and need to undergo dialysis treatments in the future.

Estimating Outlook for ATTR Amyloidosis

There are two types of amyloidosis caused by the transthyretin (TTR) protein. Hereditary ATTR amyloidosis is caused by gene mutations. In this condition, the liver produces abnormal TTR. Wild-type ATTR amyloidosis develops when the liver makes high levels of normal TTR protein.

Staging for Cardiac Amyloidosis

Researchers recently developed a system that can help determine the disease stage for people with either hereditary or wild-type ATTR amyloidosis who have heart symptoms. This system considers biomarkers related to both heart damage and kidney damage and can be used to predict outlook.

This ATTR staging system uses the cardiac biomarker NT-proBNP and the kidney biomarker eGFR. It defines normal biomarker levels as less than 3,000 nanograms per liter for NT-proBNP and more than 45 milliliters per minute for eGFR.

People with stage 1 ATTR amyloidosis have normal levels of both biomarkers. Stage 2 amyloidosis is defined as abnormal levels of either biomarker. Those with stage 3 disease have abnormal levels of both biomarkers. These stages help predict survival:

  • People with stage 1 disease live an average of 5.8 years after being diagnosed.
  • People with stage 2 disease live an average of 3.9 years after diagnosis.
  • People with stage 3 disease live about two years after being diagnosed.

Researchers also recently developed a second staging system for wild-type ATTR amyloidosis. This system is similar to the previous one but uses the biomarkers NT-proBNP and cTnT. People with abnormal levels of these biomarkers have a poor outlook compared to people with normal levels.

Staging Hereditary Amyloidosis in the Nervous System

Hereditary amyloidosis can affect multiple organs and tissues. When amyloid deposits build up in the nerves, doctors may call it familial amyloid polyneuropathy. However, this term is now rarely used.

Several different systems are used to classify the severity of hereditary ATTR amyloidosis within the nervous system. These systems use amyloidosis symptoms to stage disease.

One common system, the Coutinho staging system, was developed several decades ago. People with more severe symptoms have advanced disease:

  • Stage 0 — People have no symptoms.
  • Stage 1 — People have mild symptoms. They can walk but may have difficulty.
  • Stage 2 — People have moderate symptoms and may need help walking.
  • Stage 3 — People have severe symptoms and need a wheelchair to get around.

Another system is the polyneuropathy disability scoring system. It scores symptoms in a slightly different way:

  • Stage 0 — People have no symptoms.
  • Stage 1 — People may experience unusual sensations such as numbness or tingling in the legs but can walk normally.
  • Stage 2 — People may have some difficulty walking.
  • Stage 3a — People need a single mobility aid such as a cane or crutch in order to walk.
  • Stage 3b — People need two canes or crutches in order to walk.
  • Stage 4 — People cannot walk and need a wheelchair.

Researchers may also use several other staging systems. These systems often share some similarities but classify symptoms in different ways. Other systems include the Portuguese classification system, neuropathy symptom score, autonomic dysfunction scoring, neurologic disability score, and neuropathy impairment score.

Determining Progression in AA Amyloidosis

AA amyloidosis develops when the body experiences ongoing inflammation. Chronic infections, autoimmune disorders, and other immune diseases can all make the body produce amyloid protein, leading to AA amyloidosis.

Researchers have not developed a staging system for AA amyloidosis, so survival rates can’t be grouped by stage. Overall, people with AA amyloidosis live for an average of 11 years after being diagnosed. However, doctors can use several factors to identify whether the amyloidosis is progressing and estimate the outlook.

Some people with AA amyloidosis experience kidney failure, which often leads to poor outcomes. Signs that the kidney is not working correctly indicate that a person has a worse outlook. These signs include proteinuria, low levels of albumin protein, a need for dialysis, and high levels of creatinine (a waste product that is normally removed by the kidneys). Other factors that increase the risk of a poor outcome include older age, high levels of amyloid protein in the blood, and heart or liver damage.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyAmyloidosisTeam is the social network for people with amyloidosis and their loved ones. On MyAmyloidosisTeam, members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with amyloidosis.

Are you living with amyloidosis? Share your experiences in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyAmyloidosisTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Mark Levin, M.D. is a hematology and oncology specialist with over 37 years of experience in internal medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Maureen McNulty studied molecular genetics and English at Ohio State University. Learn more about her here.

Related articles

A panel of 25 amyloidosis experts met virtually to talk about how COVID-19 could affect those...

ATTR Amyloidosis Could Increase Risk of Severe COVID-19

A panel of 25 amyloidosis experts met virtually to talk about how COVID-19 could affect those...
Amyloidosis is a disorder in which the body makes abnormal proteins. These amyloid proteins build...

Who Is Most Likely To Be Diagnosed With Amyloidosis?

Amyloidosis is a disorder in which the body makes abnormal proteins. These amyloid proteins build...
Amyloidosis is most frequently diagnosed in people between the ages of 60 and 70. When you first...

Life Expectancy With Amyloidosis

Amyloidosis is most frequently diagnosed in people between the ages of 60 and 70. When you first...
Wild-type amyloidosis is a disease in which the body makes abnormal proteins that build up in the...

Wild-Type Amyloidosis — An Overview

Wild-type amyloidosis is a disease in which the body makes abnormal proteins that build up in the...
Amyloidosis is a rare disease that is underdiagnosed. About 4,500 people in the U.S. are...

Amyloidosis — An Overview

Amyloidosis is a rare disease that is underdiagnosed. About 4,500 people in the U.S. are...
Amyloid light-chain (AL) amyloidosis is the most common form of amyloidosis.AL amyloidosis is...

What Is AL Amyloidosis?

Amyloid light-chain (AL) amyloidosis is the most common form of amyloidosis.AL amyloidosis is...

Recent articles

Amyloidosis is a rare condition that occurs when amyloid, an abnormal protein, builds up in the...

How Does Amyloidosis Affect the Skin?

Amyloidosis is a rare condition that occurs when amyloid, an abnormal protein, builds up in the...
Amyloidosis is a rare disease caused by the buildup of abnormal proteins (amyloids) in the organs...

Does Amyloidosis Cause Weight Gain?

Amyloidosis is a rare disease caused by the buildup of abnormal proteins (amyloids) in the organs...
Amyloidosis occurs when abnormal proteins, called amyloids, build up in the blood. Amyloids can...

Symptoms of Cardiac Amyloidosis

Amyloidosis occurs when abnormal proteins, called amyloids, build up in the blood. Amyloids can...
Although life with amyloidosis can present a variety of challenges, people diagnosed with the...

Living With Amyloidosis

Although life with amyloidosis can present a variety of challenges, people diagnosed with the...
While a diet can’t cause, prevent, or treat your amyloidosis, eating healthy may help you avoid...

Eating a Healthy Diet With Amyloidosis

While a diet can’t cause, prevent, or treat your amyloidosis, eating healthy may help you avoid...
Amyloidosis isn’t caused by foods that a person eats. Diet changes can’t prevent or treat this...

Foods To Avoid With Amyloidosis

Amyloidosis isn’t caused by foods that a person eats. Diet changes can’t prevent or treat this...
MyAmyloidosisTeam My amyloidosis Team

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close