Objective: To study the prevalence of orthopaedic surgery and to evaluate possible predictive factors for large joint replacements in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Patients and methods: A cohort of 183 patients (116 (63.4%) female) with early RA was monitored for 16–20 years after recruitment during 1985–9. Mean (SD) age of patients 51.4 (12.4) years; mean (SD) duration of symptoms before inclusion 12 (7) months and mean (SD) duration of follow-up 16 (4) years. Occurrence of orthopaedic surgery was recorded continuously. A first prosthesis of a large joint (shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee or ankle) was used as outcome variable in the predictive analyses.
Results: In total, 386 orthopaedic interventions were performed in 106/183 (58%) patients during follow-up and a large joint replacement was performed in 44/183 (24%) patients. Using a Cox regression model, it was shown that Health Assessment Questionnaire, C-reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate at inclusion, and radiographic changes in small joints after 1 year, were associated with an increased risk of receiving prosthesis of large joints.
Conclusion: In this cohort of patients with RA monitored from early disease stage, orthopaedic surgical procedures were performed in more than half of the patients. This included first large joint replacements in 24% of the cases. Easily available measures were identified as predictors of such joint replacements. This study could serve as a reference for comparison with cohorts of patients with RA recruited today, in which new more efficacious treatments are used.
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Funding: This study was supported by grants from the Swedish Rheumatism Association, the Swedish Research Council, the Medical Faculty of the University of Lund, Alfred Österlunds Foundation, the Crafoord Foundation, Greta and Johan Kocks Foundation, the King Gustaf V Foundation and Lund University Hospital.
Competing interests: None.
Ethics approval: Ethics committee approval obtained.