Declining use of orthopedic surgery in patients with rheumatoid arthritis? Results of a long-term, population-based assessment

Arthritis Rheum. 2003 Apr 15;49(2):216-20. doi: 10.1002/art.10998.


Objective: To describe the use of orthopedic surgery, including joint replacement surgery, in a well-defined, population-based cohort of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to identify characteristics that predict such use.

Methods: A retrospective medical record review was performed of cases of RA incident in Rochester, Minnesota, during the years 1955-1995. All joint surgeries were recorded.

Results: Of the total 609 RA incident cases, 242 patients underwent 1 or more (maximum of 20/patient) surgical procedures involving joints during their followup. Overall, this RA cohort had 7.4 surgeries per 100 person-years of followup; the cumulative incidence for joint surgery for RA-related joint disease at 30 years was 33.7% +/- SEM 3.8%. The risk of having a disease-related joint surgery for RA is increased in patients who are women, younger, positive for rheumatoid factor, and have rheumatoid nodules. When adjusted for duration of followup, patients with RA diagnosed after 1985 were significantly less likely to have undergone joint surgery for RA (P < 0.001). Survival of patients who underwent total joint arthroplasty was similar to those who did not.

Conclusion: Reconstructive surgeries are common in RA, although patients diagnosed after 1985 are less likely to require joint surgery. These findings may reflect trends in medical disease management and have importance for health care resource utilization planning.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / epidemiology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / surgery*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Planning
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Joints / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minnesota / epidemiology
  • Orthopedic Procedures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution