Objective: To investigate the influence of age at symptom onset and length of followup on mortality in patients with recent-onset inflammatory polyarthritis (IP), and to examine predictors of mortality in relation to disease duration.
Methods: From 1990 to 1994, patients with recent-onset IP were registered with the Norfolk Arthritis Register (NOAR) and followed up prospectively. Standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) were calculated for all-cause and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality and for those who were younger than age 55 years at disease onset and for the first 5 and 10 years of followup. Cox proportional hazards models were developed to assess predictors of early and later mortality.
Results: Of 1,098 patients, 224 (20%) had died by the end of 2004. All-cause and CVD mortality were increased in rheumatoid factor (RF)-positive patients and in this subgroup, CVD mortality was increased at both early and later followup (SMR 5-year followup 1.93 [95% confidence interval 1.08-3.19]; SMR 10-year followup 2.00 [95% confidence interval 1.37-2.80]). CVD mortality was highest in seropositive patients<55 years of age at disease onset (SMR 5.58 [95% confidence interval 2.24-11.50]). In multivariate models, age at onset, male sex, RF positivity, Health Assessment Questionnaire score>or=1.5, and nodules were predictors of early and later mortality.
Conclusion: Patients with IP had higher rates of CVD mortality throughout the followup period studied, and this was highest in seropositive patients who were <55 years of age at symptom onset. This subgroup deserves particular attention in terms of disease and risk factor modification. Nodules were independent predictors of CVD mortality, suggesting that extraarticular/vascular inflammation identifies patients at particularly high CVD risk.