Clinical synovitis in a particular joint is associated with progression of erosions and joint space narrowing in that same joint, but not in patients initially treated with infliximab

Department of Rheumatology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.
Annals of the rheumatic diseases (Impact Factor: 10.38). 12/2010; 69(12):2107-13. DOI: 10.1136/ard.2010.131201
Source: PubMed


To assess the relationship between joint tenderness, swelling and joint damage progression in individual joints and to evaluate the influence of treatment on these relationships.
First-year data of the Behandel Strategieën (BeSt) study were used, in which patients recently diagnosed as having rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were randomly assigned into four different treatment strategies. Baseline and 1-year x-rays of the hands and feet were assessed using the Sharp-van der Heijde score (SHS). With generalised estimating equations, 3-monthly assessments of tender and swollen joints of year 1 were related to erosion progression, joint space narrowing (JSN) progression and total SHS progression at the individual joint level (definition > 0.5 SHS units) in year 1, corrected for potential confounders and within-patient correlation for multiple joints per patient.
During year 1, 59% of all 13 959 joints analysed were ever tender and 45% ever swollen, 2.1% showed erosion progression, 1.9% JSN progression and 3.6% SHS progression. Swelling and tenderness were both independently associated with erosion and JSN progression with comparable OR, although with higher OR in the hands than in the feet. Local swelling and tenderness were not associated with local damage progression in patients initially treated with infliximab.
Clinical signs of synovitis are associated with erosion and JSN progression in individual joints after 1 year in RA. A disconnect between synovitis and joint damage progression was observed at joint level in patients who were treated with methotrexate and infliximab as initial treatment, confirming the disconnect between synovitis and the development of joint damage in tumour necrosis factor blockers seen at patient level.

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    • "Physical examination per se is thus expected to provide important information on different radiological outcomes of the disease. Accordingly, cumulative swollen joint counts (SJCs) have repeatedly been shown to be associated with joint damage progression over time at both the patient and the individual joint level [Van Leeuwen et al. 1994; Smolen et al. 2006; Boers et al. 2001; Klarenbeek et al. 2010]. A proof of concept of the tight relationship between clinically active joints and structural changes is provided by the demonstration that repair (the opposite of progression), although it remains an extremely rare feature in RA [van der Linden et al. 2010], may only occur in association with improvement or cessation of clinical swelling [Lukas et al. 2010]. "
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