Objective: Information from successive inception cohorts is needed to monitor the long-term prognosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and the effect of treatment on it. We studied work disability and its association with the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) index and the Larsen score of radiographic damage.
Methods: Work disability was recorded at onset and at 1, 3, 8, 15 and 20 yr from entry among 103 patients with recent-onset (<6 months) seropositive RA.
Results: Work disability due to RA was already 31% [95% confidence interval (CI) 21-40] after 1 yr among patients of working age. It increased gradually and the cumulative rate reached 80% (95% CI 70-89) by the 20 yr check-up. The mean HAQ index was 0.96 at the 20 yr check-up and the mean Larsen score 45% of the maximum value.
Conclusion: The data serve as a basis of comparison for later cohort studies.