Objective: To formulate EULAR recommendations for the management of early arthritis.
Methods: In accordance with EULAR's "standardised operating procedures", the task force pursued an evidence based approach and an approach based on expert opinion. A steering group comprised of 14 rheumatologists representing 10 European countries. The group defined the focus of the process, the target population, and formulated an operational definition of "management". Each participant was invited to propose issues of interest regarding the management of early arthritis or early rheumatoid arthritis. Fifteen issues for further research were selected by use of a modified Delphi technique. A systematic literature search was carried out. Evidence was categorised according to usual guidelines. A set of draft recommendations was proposed on the basis of the research questions and the results of the literature search.. The strength of the recommendations was based on the category of evidence and expert opinion.
Results: 15 research questions, covering the entire spectrum of "management of early arthritis", were formulated for further research; and 284 studies were identified and evaluated. Twelve recommendations for the management of early arthritis were selected and presented with short sentences. The selected statements included recognition of arthritis, referral, diagnosis, prognosis, classification, and treatment of early arthritis (information, education, non-pharmacological interventions, pharmacological treatments, and monitoring of the disease process). On the basis of expert opinion, 11 items were identified as being important for future research.
Conclusions: 12 key recommendations for the management of early arthritis or early rheumatoid arthritis were developed, based on evidence in the literature and expert consensus.