Objective: To investigate whether seemingly healthy first-degree relatives of patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) have clinical, laboratory, or imaging features of spondyloarthritis (SpA).
Methods: First-degree relatives (ages 18-40 years) of HLA-B27-positive AS patients were included in the pre-spondyloarthritis (Pre-SpA) cohort, a prospective inception cohort study. Clinical, biologic, and imaging features were recorded. First-degree relatives were classified according to several sets of SpA classification criteria.
Results: We report baseline features of 51 first-degree relatives included in this study. Twenty-nine (57%) had back pain, 2 (4%) had psoriasis, 1 (2%) had inflammatory bowel disease, and 1 (2%) had uveitis. Three (6%) had low-grade sacroiliitis, 1 (2%) had cervical syndesmophytes on radiography, and 10 (20%) had bone marrow edema on magnetic resonance imaging of the sacroiliiac joints. Seventeen of 51 first-degree relatives (33%) fulfilled SpA classification criteria: 7 (14%) fulfilled both Assessment of SpondyloArthritis international Society (ASAS) axial SpA and European Spondylarthropathy Study Group (ESSG) classification criteria, 6 (12%) fulfilled only ASAS axial SpA classification criteria, and 4 (8%) fulfilled only ESSG classification criteria; 3 (6%) also fulfilled the Amor criteria. None fulfilled other SpA classification criteria. First-degree relatives fulfilling the ASAS axial SpA and/or ESSG classification criteria had more frequent inflammatory back pain, had a higher level of disease activity, and had more psoriasis. No differences were found in parameters of inflammation, peripheral and extraarticular disease other than psoriasis, and HLA-B27 positivity between those who did and those who did not fulfill the ASAS axial SpA and/or ESSG classification criteria. Four first-degree relatives (12%) who did not fulfill the ASAS axial SpA and/or ESSG classification criteria had imaging abnormalities suggestive of SpA.
Conclusion: A substantial proportion of seemingly healthy first-degree relatives of HLA-B27-positive AS patients have clinical and/or imaging abnormalities suggestive of SpA. Thirty-three percent could be classified as having SpA. Further follow-up will show which first-degree relatives will develop clinically manifest SpA.
© 2016, American College of Rheumatology.