Background: This study aimed to describe the proportion of patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) who had experienced an unsuccessful transfer from a pediatric rheumatology team to an adult rheumatologist and to compare the characteristics of those who achieved successful transfer to those who did not.
Methods: We conducted a systematic chart review of all patients with JIA who attended their final Montreal Children's Hospital JIA clinic appointment between 1992 and 2005. We tracked these patients for the two years after transfer to an adult rheumatologist. We then compared characteristics of patients with successful and unsuccessful transfers of care. Variables pertaining to disease characteristics, disease severity and psychosocial factors were examined. Univariate analyses were performed to determine if any single factor was associated with the outcome of unsuccessful transfer of care.
Results: 52% of patients fulfilled our criteria for unsuccessful transfer. Of the variables tested, an active joint count (AJC) of zero at last visit was associated with the outcome of unsuccessful transfer (OR = 2.67 (CI 1.16-6.16; p = 0.0199)).
Conclusions: Despite the presence of a coordinated process of transfer from pediatric to adult health care for the majority of the patients in this study, there was a high rate of unsuccessful transfer and/or sustained follow up which is disheartening. We found that patients with less active disease at the time of transfer, as indicated by a lower AJC, were more likely to be lost to follow up. Recent literature suggests that even in the least severe categories of JIA, 50% of patients persist with active disease into adulthood. Thus educating all JIA patients about the possibility of disease flare in adulthood may improve their adherence to recommendations for sustained follow-up in the adult milieu. This may lead to improvement of longitudinal outcomes for all JIA patients.