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New Test Criteria Spots Rheumatoid Arthritis Sooner

Identifying patients earlier means intervention may be more effective, researchers say

SUNDAY, Nov. 11 (HealthDay News) -- More patients with early rheumatoid arthritis could be identified and enrolled in clinical studies if the process of diagnosis included one new type of assessment and excluded two traditional assessments, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at 292 people, average age 54, seen at the Arthritis Center of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. The average duration of the patients' symptoms was four years.

Their findings showed that by including anti-CCP (cyclic citrullinated peptide) testing and excluding rheumatoid nodules and radiographic changes, the number of patients correctly classified as having rheumatoid arthritis increased from 51 percent to 74 percent.

When this approach was used in patients who had rheumatoid arthritis symptoms for less than six months (when signs such as nodules and radiographic changes may not yet be apparent), the percentage of patients correctly classified as having rheumatoid arthritis increased from 25 percent to 63 percent.

The study was to be presented Saturday at the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) meeting in Boston.

"Anti-CCP testing is now widely used in clinical practice to aid in the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis but is not included in the current ACR criteria for the classification of rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, rheumatoid arthritis therapies available today are able to slow or halt disease progression. It is important that new therapies are tested early in the disease course before significant damage has occurred," lead investigator Dr. Katherine P. Liao said in a prepared statement.

"The current criteria for rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis include elements that may not become apparent until later in the disease. Minor modifications in these criteria may allow us to correctly identify rheumatoid arthritis patients earlier, when intervention may be more effective," she added.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about rheumatoid arthritis.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American College of Rheumatology, news release, Nov. 7, 2007

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