Objective: Work disability is a serious consequence of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We conducted a 6-month, prospective randomized controlled trial comparing assessments of function, work, coping, and disease activity in employed patients with RA receiving occupational therapy intervention versus usual care.
Methods: Employed patients with RA with increased perceived work disability risk were identified by the RA Work Instability Scale (WIS; score >or=10). Patients were stratified into medium- (score >or=10 and <17) and high-risk (>or=17) groups, then randomized into occupational therapy or usual care groups. Assessments were conducted at baseline and 6 months. The primary outcome was the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM), a standardized patient self-report of function. Other outcomes included the disability index (DI) of the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ); Disease Activity Score in 28 joints (DAS28); RA WIS; EuroQol Index; visual analog scales (VAS) for pain, work satisfaction, and work performance; and days missed/month. Independent sample t-tests and Mann-Whitney U tests were used.
Results: We recruited 32 employed patients with RA. At baseline the groups were well matched. At 6 months the improvement in the occupational therapy group was significantly greater than that in the usual care group for all functional outcomes (COPM performance P < 0.001, COPM satisfaction P < 0.001, HAQ DI P = 0.02) and most work outcomes (RA WIS [P = 0.04], VAS work satisfaction [P < 0.001], VAS work performance [P = 0.01]). Additionally, Arthritis Helplessness Index (P = 0.02), Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales II pain subscale (P = 0.03), VAS pain (P = 0.007), EuroQol Index (P = 0.02), EuroQol global (P = 0.02), and DAS28 (P = 0.03) scores significantly improved.
Conclusion: Targeted, comprehensive occupational therapy intervention improves functional and work-related outcomes in employed RA patients at risk of work disability.