Objective: To describe the disease characteristics, long-term course, and outcome of patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) in a population-based setting.
Methods: Consecutive cases of JIA from defined geographic areas of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Norway in whom disease onset occurred in 1997-2000 were included in a prospective, multicenter cohort study. The study was designed to be as close to a population-based study as possible, with centers participating only if they were able to include in their catchment area all children in whom JIA was diagnosed.
Results: Of 500 children included, 440 (88.0%) had repeated visits, with the last visit occurring at least 7 years after disease onset (median 98 months, range 84-147 months). Changes in the International League of Associations for Rheumatology category were observed in 10.8% of the children, and, in addition, extended oligoarthritis developed in 34.7% of the group with oligoarticular JIA. During the observation period, 58.0% of the children were treated with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, including biologic medications. Ongoing disease activity was mostly mild, but some JIA-related damage developed in 22.9% of the children. At the last followup visit, remission off medication was observed in 42.4% of the children, 8.9% were in remission on medication, and 48.7% were not in remission. The highest rates of remission were observed in patients with persistent oligoarticular JIA and in those with systemic JIA.
Conclusion: In this long-term prospective study of JIA in a population-based Nordic setting, ongoing disease was evident in a majority of the children. The present results underline the need to identify early predictors of outcome, to further improve therapy, and to continue long-term followup of patients with JIA.
Copyright © 2011 by the American College of Rheumatology.