The aim of this work was to develop a consensual recommendation under the auspices of the Assessment of SpondyloArthritis international Society (ASAS) for early referral of patients with a suspicion of axial spondyloarthritis by non-rheumatologists. The development of a referral recommendation consisted of four phases: (1) systematic literature review, (2) the first Delphi round aiming at identification of unmet needs and development of a candidate list of referral parameters, (3) the second Delphi round aiming at identification of the most useful combination of referral parameters and (4) final discussion and formal endorsement by ASAS membership. The following consensus on a referral recommendation was achieved as a result of the Delphi processes and final voting: “Patients with chronic back pain (duration ≥3 months) and back pain onset before 45 years of age should be referred to a rheumatologist if at least one of the following parameters is present: Inflammatory back pain; human leucocyte antigen-B27; Sacroiliitis on imaging if available (X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging); Peripheral manifestations (arthritis, enthesitis, dactylitis); Extra-articular manifestations (psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, uveitis); Positive family history for spondyloarthritis; Good response to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; Elevated acute phase reactant.” A consensual ASAS-endorsed referral recommendation for patients suspected of having axial spondyloarthritis was developed as a flexible and universal strategy to be used in clinical practice by primary care physicians or non-rheumatology specialists. The practical value of this strategy applied in different settings should be determined in future studies.
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