Introduction: To investigate whether baseline levels of anti-citrullinated protein antibody (ACPA) or IgM rheumatoid factor (IgM-RF) and changes in the year thereafter are associated with disease activity, functional and radiographic outcome in early arthritis patients, and provide additional information over baseline autoantibody status.
Methods: In 545 early arthritis patients ACPA and IgM-RF levels, disease activity (DAS28), the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) and Sharp/Van der Heijde Score (SHS) were assessed annually. Baseline status, levels and first-year changes of the autoantibodies were associated with these measures at the two-year follow-up and sub-analysed according to autoantibody status.
Results: The mean age was 52.7 years, 69% was female, at baseline 56% was ACPA positive, 47% IgM-RF positive. At the two-year follow-up the mean DAS28 was 2.88, and the median HAQ and SHS were 0.38 and 1, respectively. At one year, ACPA and IgM-RF levels had decreased by 31% and 56%, respectively. A switch from negative to positive occurred in 2% for ACPA and 3% for IgM-RF. Positive ACPA and RF status were both associated with SHS at two years (P < 0.001), but baseline levels only showed a minor correlation of ACPA with DAS28 and HAQ at two years. Level changes were not associated with the outcome parameters.
Conclusions: Baseline levels and first-year changes of ACPA and IgM-RF are hardly associated with outcome after two years. Seroconversion seldom occurs. Therefore, it does not appear useful to repeat ACPA or IgM-RF measurements.