Objective: To investigate body composition and serum tumor necrosis factor (TNF) levels in a series of 24 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: Body composition assessment by anthropometric measures and bioelectrical impedance. Cytokine determination in serum by ELISA:
Results: When compared to United States population norms, 16 of the subjects (67%) were cachectic. In regression models, lean body mass (LBM) was inversely associated with the number of swollen joints (p < 0.025). Elevated TNF-alpha was found in 3 of 5 flaring patients vs 0 of 18 patients with less active disease (p = 0.001). These 3 were all cachectic, while the 2 flaring patients without detectable TNF had normal LBM (p < 0.03). Among the whole group, there was a trend toward increasing disability with decreased LBM after adjusting for joint pain and disease duration (p < 0.07).
Conclusion: Cachexia is common in RA, and may be cytokine driven. Given the prognostic impact of LBM wasting in other diseases, the effect of rheumatoid cachexia on outcome in RA deserves further study.