Delay in access to appropriate care for children presenting with musculoskeletal symptoms and ultimately diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Arthritis Rheum. 2007 Aug 15;57(6):921-7. doi: 10.1002/art.22882.


Objective: To document pathways of care, management, and interval from onset of symptoms to first pediatric rheumatology multidisciplinary team (PRhMDT) assessment for children with incident juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

Methods: We conducted a retrospective observational study of children with incident JIA over a 3-year period.

Results: The study included 152 patients with JIA (87 females). The median interval from symptom onset to first PRhMDT assessment was 20 weeks (range 0-416), with significant variation between JIA subtypes (P = 0.0097); children with extended oligoarticular JIA had the longest interval (median 60 weeks, range 12-320). Prior to pediatric rheumatology assessment, many children had referrals to multiple secondary care specialties and had been subjected to multiple and often invasive procedures including arthroscopy/synovial biopsy (18 [11.8%] of 152), but none were referred for ophthalmologic screening, physical therapy, or nursing input and a diagnosis of JIA was rarely made (98%). At first PRhMDT assessment, most patients had untreated active disease with active joint count >or=1 (135 [89%] of 152), restricted joint count >or=1 (135 [89%] of 152), and functional disability by Child Health Assessment Questionnaire score >0 (53 [68%] of 118); 1 child had undetected uveitis. Following PRhMDT assessment, interventions were invariably indicated, including joint injections (69 [45%] of 152), methotrexate (49 [32%] of 152), and physical therapy programs (all patients).

Conclusion: Delay in access to pediatric rheumatology assessment is common with complex pathways of referral. Many children were subjected to inappropriate invasive investigations and many had prolonged untreated active disease at the initial PRhMDT assessment. This delay is likely to affect long-term outcome and warrants further exploration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arthritis, Juvenile / diagnosis*
  • Arthritis, Juvenile / physiopathology
  • Arthritis, Juvenile / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Progression
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal System / physiopathology
  • Patient Care Team
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rheumatology
  • Time Factors