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Difficulties making a fist in patients presenting with recent-onset arthralgia of small joints without clinically detectable arthritis is considered a risk factor for progression to inflammatory arthritis (IA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This is also reflected by this sign being incorporated in the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) definition of arthralgia suspicious for progression to RA.1 However, to date, there is barely scientific evidence for its predictive value and little comprehension on the underlying mechanism in recent-onset arthralgia. We studied if difficulties making a fist is indeed predictive for the development of IA and RA, and whether this sign is associated with subclinical inflammation.
Patients presenting with recent-onset (<1 year) arthralgia of the small joints were consecutively included in the Leiden clinically suspect arthralgia (CSA) cohort.2 At baseline, the ability to completely close the fist (actively close the fist with all fingertips touching the palm) and fist strength (measured by a patient squeezing the assessor’s fingers) were determined (figure 1). It was determined by trained research nurses in all patients, and for reliability purposes also by rheumatologists in a subset of patients. Contrast-enhanced 1.5T MRI of the wrist and second to fifth metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joints was performed and …
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