Introduction: Disease remission has become a feasible goal for most rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients; however, patient-reported symptoms, such as pain, may persist despite remission. We assessed the prevalence of pain in RA patients in remission according to the Disease Activity Score (DAS28-CRP4) and the American College of Rheumatology/European League Against Rheumatism (ACR/EULAR) remission criteria.
Methods: Data were analyzed from RA patients in the Brigham Rheumatoid Arthritis Sequential Study with data at baseline and 1 year. DAS28 remission was defined as DAS28-CRP4 <2.6. The ACR/EULAR remission criteria included (a) one or more swollen joints, (b) one or more tender joints, (c) C-reactive protein ≤1 mg/dl, and (d) patient global assessment score ≤1. Pain severity was measured by using the pain score from the Multi-Dimensional Health Assessment Questionnaire (MDHAQ). The associations between baseline clinical predictors and MDHAQ pain at baseline and 1 year were assessed by using multivariable linear regression.
Results: Among the 865 patients with data at baseline and 1 year, 157 (18.2%) met DAS28-CRP4 remission criteria at both time points. Thirty-seven (4.3%) met the ACR/EULAR remission criteria at baseline and 1 year. The prevalence of clinically significant pain (MDHAQ pain ≥4) at baseline ranged from 11.9% among patients meeting DAS28-CRP4 remission criteria to none among patients meeting ACR/EULAR remission criteria. Patient global assessment, MDHAQ function, MDHAQ fatigue, MDHAQ sleep, and arthritis self-efficacy were significantly associated with MDHAQ pain in cross-sectional (P ≤ 0.0005) and longitudinal analyses (P ≤ 0.03). Low swollen-joint counts were associated with high MDHAQ pain in longitudinal analyses (P = 0.02) but not cross-sectional analyses. Other measures of inflammatory disease activity and joint damage were not significantly associated with MDHAQ pain at baseline or at 1 year.
Conclusions: Clinically significant pain continues among a substantial proportion of patients in DAS28 remission but not among those in ACR/EULAR remission. Among patients in DAS28 remission, patient global assessment, disability, fatigue, sleep problems, and self-efficacy are strongly associated with pain severity at baseline and 1 year, whereas inflammatory disease activity and joint damage are not significantly associated with elevated pain severity at either baseline or 1 year.