Objectives: Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) may progress to joint damage. Determining clinical predictors of joint damage assessed by radiography is important. The aim of this study was to determine clinical factors as possible predictors for radiological damage in hands and feet of PsA patients with a 12-month follow-up.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective study on 53 PsA patients who were taking disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and/or tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha-blockers at a fixed dosage. The patients were observed in 118 follow-up visits (intervals of 12 months ± 3 months), according to a clinical and radiological protocol which included the documentation of the number of swollen and tender joints in hands and feet, the applied therapy, psoriasis, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-reactive protein (CRP), and global health assessment. Outcome was defined as radiographic damage of hands and feet (Ratingen score). For the statistical analysis the Chi-Square test for 2x2 crosstables (with Fisher's correction, as required) was used.
Results: Progressive radiological damage was more frequent among patients with an increasing swollen joint count (8 of 26 visits; 30.8%) than among those with a stable or decreased number of swollen joints (5 of 89 visits; 5.6%; p=0.001). The analysis of the patients stratified into the different treatment modalities resulted in a significant higher rate of radiological progress (20.8%) in patients on DMARD therapy compared with TNF-alpha blocking agents (0%) (p=0.009).
Conclusions: During a 12-month follow-up of PsA patients, an increasing number of swollen joints heralds progression of radiological damage. TNF-alpha-blocker therapy appears to be superior to DMARDs in the protection from radiological progress.