ABSTRACT: INTRODUCTION: Change in bone mineral density (BMD) in the hand, as evaluated by digital X-ray radiogrammetry (DXR) of the II-IV metacarpal bones, has been suggested to predict future joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This study's objective was to investigate if DXR-BMD loss early in the disease predicts development of joint damage in RA patients followed for up to 20 years. METHODS: 183 patients (115 women and 68 men) with early RA (mean disease duration 11 months) included from 1985 to 1989 were followed prospectively (the Lund early RA cohort). Clinical and functional measures were assessed yearly. Joint damage was evaluated according to the Larsen score on radiographs of hands and feet taken in years 0 to 5, 10, 15 and 20. These radiographs were digitized and BMD of the II-IV metacarpal bones was evaluated by DXR (Sectra, Linkoping. Sweden). Early DXR-BMD change rate (bone loss) per year calculated from the first 2 radiographs taken on average 9 months apart (SD 4.8) were available for 135 patients. Mean values of right and left hand were used. RESULTS: Mean early DXR-BMD loss during the first year calculated was -0.023 g/cm2 (SD 0.025). Patients with marked bone loss, i.e. early DXR-BMD loss above the median for the group, had significantly worse progression of joint damage at all examinations during the 20-year period. CONCLUSIONS: Early DXR-BMD progression rate predicted development of joint damage evaluated according to Larsen at year one and further onwards up to 20 years in this cohort of early RA patients.
- Reumatologi och inflammation