Background: Musculoskeletal disorders are the most common extra-intestinal manifestation of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Wide ranges of prevalence have been reported depending on the criteria used to define spondylarthropathy and on the selection of patients. We aimed to evaluate the prevalence and clinical spectrum of musculoskeletal manifestations in an inception cohort of European IBD patients.
Methods: From 1 October 1991 to 30 September 1993, 202 IBD patients were diagnosed in three centres of two countries (Italy and The Netherlands) by means of a population-based inception cohort study. Of this group of patients, 160 (79%) were interviewed and examined by a rheumatologist and a gastroenterologist in the period June-September 1996. A total of 139/160 patients had an antero-posterior radiograph of the pelvis, and in 140/160 HLA-B27 was determined.
Results: 53 (33.1%) of the 160 patients had experienced at least one musculoskeletal manifestation, 29 (18.1%) satisfied the European Spondylarthropathy Study Group (ESSG) criteria for spondylarthropathy and 5 (3.1%) satisfied the modified New York criteria for ankylosing spondylitis. However, 23 (14.4%) patients developed one or more spondylarthropathy-related manifestations without fulfilling any of the classification criteria. In patients satisfying ESSG criteria a significantly higher frequency of women (P = 0.03), of ocular and liver involvement (P = 0.01 and P = 0.03, respectively), and use of immunosuppressive drugs (P = 0.02) was observed.
Conclusion: Our study shows a high prevalence of musculoskeletal manifestations in an inception cohort of IBD patients. The clinical spectrum is broader than that defined by spondylarthropathy criteria.