Background: Hand pain with stiffness is a common clinical presentation to early arthritis clinics, with outcome varying from resolution to the development of rheumatoid arthritis.
Objective: To assess the response and predictors of response to intramuscular methylprednisolone (MP) and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) using a standardised treatment protocol.
Methods: Patients with inflammatory hand pain (IHP), defined as predominantly hand pain and morning stiffness of at least 30 min duration, received a standardised assessment prior to receiving intramuscular MP. Response (primary outcome) at 4 weeks was a 50% improvement in symptoms as perceived by the patient; responders who relapsed received repeat intramuscular MP and HCQ.
Results: 102 patients were recruited, of which 21% were rheumatoid factor (RF) positive, 23% had clinical synovitis, 25% had raised C-reactive protein level and 55% had ultrasound-detected synovitis. 73% responded, with associated significant reductions in morning stiffness, Health Assessment Questionnaire, painful and tender joint counts, and visual analogue scores (p⩽0.006 for all). Ultrasound-detected synovitis (p<0.001) and RF (p = 0.04), but not clinical synovitis (p = 0.74), were significantly associated with response to intramuscular MP. 86% who remained on HCQ long term reported a benefit.
Conclusions: Patients with IHP have significant improvement in symptoms and function following intramuscular MP. Further placebo-controlled trials are required to assess the role of intramuscular MP and ultrasonography in managing this patient group.
- CRP, C-reactive protein
- EMS, early morning stiffness
- HAQ, Health Assessment Questionnaire
- HCQ, hydroxychloroquine
- IHP, inflammatory hand pain
- MP, methylprednisolone
- RA, rheumatoid arthritis
- RF, rheumatoid factor
- US, ultrasonography
- VAS, visual analogue score
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Competing interests: None declared.
Published Online First 22 January 2007
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