Objective: To describe the extent of radiographic damage of large joints in long-term rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and its relationship to small joint involvement and physical function.
Methods: After 12 yr of follow-up, radiographs of all large joints (Larsen large joint score 0-60) of 105 recent RA patients were assessed. Correlations were evaluated between the Larsen large joint score and radiographic damage of the hands and feet as measured by the van der Heijde modification of the Sharp score (SHS) and the health assessment questionnaire (HAQ). We determined the relative contributions of radiographic damage of small and large joints, disease activity and psychological function to the HAQ.
Results: The median Larsen large joint score was 3. In 54% of the patients at least one large joint was erosive. The correlation of the Larsen score with the SHS and HAQ scores was 0.76 and 0.60, respectively. Disease activity and radiographic damage of the large joints were the major determinants of the HAQ score.
Conclusion: Large joint involvement after 12 yr of follow-up is extensive and is associated with functional disability. Large joint involvement is closely associated with small joint involvement.