Objectives: To examine the relationship between roentgenological deformities of the vertebral column and clinical manifestations of vertebral fractures in patients with RA, treated with glucocorticosteroids (Cs).
Methods: In all outpatients of Utrecht University Hospital with RA, who were currently using Cs (n = 52), roentgenograms of the thoracic and lumbar vertebral column were taken. Roentgenological deformities were scored à vue using the Kleerekoper score, and quantitatively using the Heidelberg and Utrecht scoring methods. Clinical manifestation of a vertebral fracture was defined as a vertebral deformity leading to prescription of therapy: bedrest and/or analgesics. Clinical manifestations of fractures were also recorded in a control group of 55 RA patients not on Cs, matched for age and gender.
Results: The prevalence of vertebral deformities in the Cs-treated RA patients, assessed with the Kleerekoper score, was 58% (30 of 52 patients). In 7 of the Cs-treated patients clinical manifestations of a vertebral fracture were present, versus 1 in the control group (p = 0.03). No significant correlation between the 3 deformity scores and the cumulative dose of Cs was found. No (inverse) correlation between serum osteocalcin and the daily dosage of prednisone was found.
Conclusion: Corticosteroids in active RA are associated with fractures, even when low doses are used: the prevalence of vertebral deformities (58%) in the Cs-treated RA patients was much higher than the frequency in postmenopausal women of the same age reported in the literature, and the reported incidence of clinically manifestations of vertebral fractures was higher in the Cs-treated RA patients than in the control group of RA-patients not treated with Cs.