Objectives: To examine referral patterns from primary care physicians for children with pauciarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) and to determine whether children with pauciarticular JRA referred to pediatric rheumatologists differ in clinical presentation from children referred to other specialists.
Design: A retrospective records review of 49 patients with pauciarticular jRA was performed. Records were reviewed to determine the specialty of the referring physician and whether the children referred had symptoms and signs compatible with a synovitis at the time primary care was sought.
Setting: Inner-city tertiary pediatric rheumatology referral center.
Participants: Children with pauciarticular JRA.
Main outcome measures: Identification of referral patterns of primary care physicians. Associated morbidity owing to JRA was ascertained at the time of referral.
Results: Most children with pauciarticular JRA (62%) were referred to orthopedic surgeons prior to referral for pediatric rheumatology care. No differences in clinical symptoms were seen between children referred to pediatric rheumatologists and those referred to orthopedic surgeons. Children referred initially to orthopedic surgeons were younger than those referred to pediatric rheumatologists.
Conclusion: A notable number of children with pauciarticular JRA are referred to orthopedic surgeons prior to the establishment of that diagnosis, even when such children present with unequivocal signs of synovitis. This may be owing to the misconception that arthritis is rare in preschool-aged children or to the difficulty of ascertaining the presence of synovitis in younger children.