Arthritis is a chronic swelling and tenderness of one or more of the joints. It is recommended to see a rheumatologist within 6 weeks of symptom onset; however, this implementation is difficult. The objective of this study is to compare the outcomes of visiting a rheumatologist within 6 weeks of symptom onset versus 7-12 weeks of symptom onset.
This is an observational cohort study conducted on 1,025 consecutive patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The participants were categorized into three groups based on the time between symptom onset and first encounter with a rheumatologist: the first group with patients who saw a rheumatologist within 6 weeks, the second group with those who saw a rheumatologist within 7-12 weeks, and the third with those who took more than 12 weeks. The primary outcomes were DMARD remission and radiographic progression.
At the median follow-up of 7.1 years, 30 (24%) of 127 patients in the 6-week group, 45 (20%) of 223 patients in the 7-12-week group, and 100 (15%) of 675 patients in the “more than 12 weeks” group achieved sustained DMARD-free remission. The rate of progression in the three groups was comparable.
The research concluded that visiting a rheumatologist within 6 weeks of symptom onset had benefits on sustained DMARD-free remission but not on radiographic progression.