In a prospective follow-up study of patients with early-onset rheumatoid arthritis, the prevalence of remission according to the 1981 American Rheumatism Association (ARA) preliminary criteria was evaluated. A total of 227 patients with a median follow-up of 3.9 yr and a total of 2832 follow-up visits were studied. The ARA remission criteria were fulfilled in 9.5% of these visits. The percentage of patients with at least one visit fulfilling the ARA criteria was for years 2-6 approximately 25%. Each year, approximately 15% of the patients were in remission for at least two consecutive visits. A comparison was made between the ARA remission criteria and the Disease Activity Score (DAS). DAS < 1.6 corresponded with being in remission according to the ARA criteria. The DAS is being proposed as a tool to define remission because absence of disease activity should be measured using the same method as for higher levels of disease activity, preferably on a continuous scale.