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Association between rheumatoid arthritis disease activity, progression of functional limitation and long-term risk of orthopaedic surgery: Combined analysis of two prospective cohorts supports EULAR treat to target DAS thresholds.
bjectives: To examine the association between disease activity in early rheumatoid arthritis (RA), functional limitation and long-term orthopaedic episodes. Methods: Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) disability scores were collected from two longitudinal early RA inception cohorts in routine care; Early Rheumatoid Arthritis Study and Early Rheumatoid Arthritis Network from 1986 to 2012. The incidence of major and intermediate orthopaedic surgical episodes over 25 years was collected from national data sets. Disease activity was categorised by mean disease activity score (DAS28) annually between years 1 and 5; remission (RDAS<2.6), low (LDAS>2.6-3.2), low-moderate (LMDAS>3.2-4.19), high-moderate (HMDAS 4.2-5.1) and high (HDAS>5.1). Results: Data from 2045 patients were analysed. Patients in RDAS showed no HAQ progression over 5 years, whereas there was a significant relationship between rising DAS28 category and HAQ at 1 year, and the rate of HAQ progression between years 1 and 5. During 27 986 person-years follow-up, 392 intermediate and 591 major surgeries were observed. Compared with the RDAS category, there was a significantly increased cumulative incidence of intermediate surgery in HDAS (OR 2.59 CI 1.49 to 4.52) and HMDAS (OR 1.8 CI 1.05 to 3.11) categories, and for major surgery in HDAS (OR 2.48 CI 1.5 to 4.11), HMDAS (OR 2.16 CI 1.32 to 3.52) and LMDAS (OR 2.07 CI 1.28 to 3.33) categories. There was no significant difference in HAQ progression or orthopaedic episodes between RDAS and LDAS categories. Conclusions: There is an association between disease activity and both poor function and long-term orthopaedic episodes. This illustrates the far from benign consequences of persistent moderate disease activity, and supports European League Against Rheumatism treat to target recommendations to secure low disease activity or remission in all patients.