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Open Access Research article

Does digital X-ray radiogrammetry have a role in identifying patients at increased risk for joint destruction in early rheumatoid arthritis?

Kristina Forslind12*, Johan Kälvesten345, Ingiäld Hafström6, Björn Svensson12 and for the BARFOT Study Group

Author Affiliations

1 Section of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Helsingborg Hospital, Södra Vallgatan 5, 25187 Helsingborg, Sweden

2 Section of Rheumatology, Institution of Clinical Science, University Hospital, Klinikgatan 15, 22242 Lund, Sweden

3 Section of Radiology, Department of Medicine and Health Sciences, University Hospital, 58185 Linköping, Sweden

4 Center for Medical Image Science and Visualization (CMIV), Linköping University, 58183 Linköping, Sweden

5 Sectra Imtec AB, Teknikringen 20, 583 30 Linköping, Sweden

6 Rheumatology Unit, Karolinska Institutet, Karolinska University Hospital, 14186 Huddinge, Sweden

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:R219  doi:10.1186/ar4058

Published: 15 October 2012

Abstract

Introduction

The aim of this study was to investigate the role of hand bone mineral density (BMD) loss analyzed with digital X-ray radiogrammetry (DXR) in early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as a predictor for progression of joint damage.

Methods

In 379 patients with early RA, baseline and one-year hand BMD was measured with DXR and the hand bone loss (HBL) was analyzed using the smallest detectable change (HBLsdc) and tertiles (HBLtertiles). Joint damage in hands and feet were scored according to the Sharp van der Heijde (SHS) method at baseline and at one, two, five and eight years. At the same time-points Disease Activity Score (DAS28) was calculated and functional disability assessed. Rheumatoid factor (RF) and antibodies against cyclic citrullinated peptides (anti-CCP) were analyzed at baseline.

Results

Sixty-six percent of the patients had hand BMD loss in the first year of RA determined by HBLsdc and 65% by HBLtertiles. Radiographic progression after two, five and eight years was associated with hand bone loss defined by HBLsdc. By HBLtertiles there were significant associations at all time-points except at eight years. The change in DXR at one year (ChDXR1yr) correlated significantly and inversely with the change in SHS (ChSHS) at two, five and eight years. Multivariate analysis showed that only change in SHS during the first year and the presence of anti-CCP were independent predictors of long-term progressive joint damage. If radiographic scores were not included, DXR-BMD loss was an independent predictor. Patients with great bone loss by HBLtertiles had significantly more often high disease activity after two years. However, neither bone loss by HBLsdc or HBLtertiles nor by ChDXR1yr was an independent predictor of remission after two, five and eight years.

Conclusions

This study confirms previous reports of an association of decrease in DXR-BMD during the first disease year with progression of radiographic joint damage over an extended period of time. This association was independent in a regression model only when radiological findings were excluded suggesting a possible predictive role of DXR-BMD in clinical practice when radiographic evaluation is not available. However, further studies are required before this can be established.