Ann Rheum Dis 60:924-927 doi:10.1136/ard.60.10.924
  • Extended report

Predictors of radiographic joint damage in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis


OBJECTIVE To determine factors at diagnosis, associated with radiographic damage at diagnosis and after one year, in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

METHODS New patients with early RA were followed up for one year. Possible prognostic factors were duration of complaints, morning stiffness, disease activity score (DAS28), functional status (Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) score), rheumatoid factor (IgM RF), and C reactive protein (CRP). Outcome was defined as radiographic damage of the hands and feet (Sharp/van der Heijde score). For the statistical analysis, one way analysis of variance and a forward stepwise logistic regression model was used.

RESULTS 130 patients with RA (68% female; median age 64 years, range 21–86) were included. Despite the fact that the median duration of complaints was short (15 weeks, range 2–106) the radiographic damage at diagnosis was significantly correlated with the duration of complaints (p<0.05). Patients with a duration of complaints of >34 weeks had significantly more radiographic joint damage at diagnosis than patients with a shorter duration of complaints. Radiographic progression at one year was correlated with high radiographic joint damage, high CRP level, and a positive IgM RF at entry.

CONCLUSIONS In early RA, the number of radiographic lesions was correlated with a longer duration of complaints at the first visit. Progression of these lesions was predicted by a high baseline joint damage, high CRP level, and a positive IgM RF. Further reduction of the delay in referral and early treatment may further decrease joint damage in patients with recent onset polyarthritis.