To assess whether high patient global assessment (PGA) scores by patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) otherwise in remission reflect subclinical inflammation.
Cross-sectional, single-center study, including consecutive RA patients. Remission states were defined based on the ACR/EULAR Boolean definition: 4V-remission (tender and swollen 28-joint counts (TJC28/SJC28), C-reactive protein (CRP), and PGA all≤1), PGA-near-remission (the same, except PGA>1), and Non-remission (any of TJC28, SJC28, CRP>1). A blinded expert musculoskeletal ultrasonographer scanned 44 joints, 38 tendon sheaths, 4 bursae on the same day of the clinical evaluation. Each structure was assessed for the presence of Grey Scale synovial hypertrophy (GS) and Power Doppler (PD), both scored using a semi-quantitative scale (0-3 points). The Global OMERACT-EULAR Synovitis Score (GLOESS, 0-132, primary outcome), and a global tenosynovitis/bursitis score (GTBS) were compared between remission states, using non-parametric tests. Different sensitivity analyses comparing GS and PD subscores were performed.
130 patients (mean age 63 years, 86% female, average disease duration 14 years) were included 40 being in 4V-remission, 40 in PGA-near-remission, 50 in non-remission. 4v-remission and PGA-near-remission presented similar median (IQR) GLOESS, [6 (5-11) and 4 (1-7), p>0.05, respectively] and GTBS [0 (0-1) and 0 (0-2), p>0.05, respectively]. The same was observed in GS, PD scores, and in global synovitis score considering only the 16 joints not included in 28-joint counts. These observations were confirmed in patients with ≤5 years disease duration.
Subclinical inflammation is not present among persons with elevated PGA who are otherwise in remission. PGA-near-remission patients would be exposed to the risk of overtreatment if current treatment recommendations were strictly followed. This study supports the need to reconsider the role of PGA in definitions used to target immunosuppressive therapy and to provide a separate and enhanced focus to the patient’s experience of the disease.

Copyright © 2021 Société française de rhumatologie. Published by Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.