Predictors of joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis

APMIS. 1996 Feb;104(2):81-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1699-0463.1996.tb00691.x.


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the dominant form of destructive chronic arthritis with the potential to cause substantial disability and permanent functional impairment. The final extent and progression rate with time, however, varies markedly. In order to study effects of intervention and to support early aggressive and atoxic therapy in selected cases, predictive disease markers are needed. Recent advances regarding joint tissue composition and pathophysiology have defined a number of biological marker candidates which need to be explored for possible prognostic information. Some markers are characteristic for RA, such as rheumatoid factors and certain autoantibodies, which although they are more prevalent among patients with aggressive disease are not sensitive as predictors in early disease. Genetic susceptibility markers have been claimed to be good predictors of persisting arthritis in early synovitis clinics, but their role as severity markers in established disease is limited. Unspecific markers of inflammation, notably ESR or CRP when persistently elevated, are useful to monitor disease course and newer markers need to document their superiority over these. Another group of markers are attractive because of enriched or exclusive occurrence in joint tissue, and altered metabolism in joint disease. Thus, collagen type III propeptides, hyaluronates, and neopterin originating in the synovium could be useful, and, in particular, hyaluronate levels indeed do provide some predictive information. Highly tissue-specific cartilage metabolites include aggrecan fragments, collagen II fragments, cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) and the extraarticular cartilage matrix protein (CMP). When used alone or in combination in early disease some information can be obtained which may in the future facilitate prognostication. Bone metabolism can be monitored and there are different markers for synthesis and resorption. Meanwhile, whilst the new markers are essential research tools, their routine clinical usefulness remains to be proven.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aggrecans
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / therapy
  • Autoantibodies / analysis
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Biopterin / analogs & derivatives
  • Biopterin / analysis
  • Collagen / analysis
  • Disease Progression
  • Epitopes / analysis
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins*
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronic Acid / analysis
  • Joints / pathology
  • Joints / physiopathology*
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Neopterin
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Proteoglycans / analysis
  • Rheumatoid Factor / analysis
  • Synovial Fluid / chemistry


  • Aggrecans
  • Autoantibodies
  • Biomarkers
  • Epitopes
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Proteoglycans
  • Biopterin
  • Neopterin
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Collagen
  • Rheumatoid Factor