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Fewer Childhood Deaths From Rheumatic Disease

Treatment advances in the 1990s may explain drop, study says

MONDAY, Feb. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Death rates for U.S. children with rheumatic diseases are much lower than previously reported, a new study has found.

Cleveland Clinic researchers analyzed data on 48,885 patients in the national Pediatric Rheumatology Disease Registry (PRDR), who were diagnosed with rheumatic diseases between 1992 and 2001.

There were 110 deaths among these patients, a number that was significantly less than expected, the researchers noted. The risk of death was notably greater for children with systemic lupus erythematosus and dermatomyositis, but not for systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The risk of death was markedly less for children with pain syndromes.

Most of the deceased with inflammatory disease died of their disease or disease complications, while many of the deceased with pain syndromes died of non-natural causes, according to the study published in the February issue of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

"One possible cause of the increased survival in the present study compared with previous studies may be the improved treatment that was introduced in the 1990s," lead author Dr. Philip Hashkes, said in a news release from the journal's publisher. "Since the information in the PRDR was limited, we could not explore in depth for risk factors or early predictors of mortality. This and continued follow-up of this cohort for mortality trends should be investigated in future studies."

About 300,000 children in the U.S. suffer from some form of arthritis or rheumatic disease, according to the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance. Childhood arthritis is the leading cause of acquired disability in children and the sixth-most common chronic childhood disease.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Arthritis & Rheumatism, news release, Jan. 28, 2010

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