An autoimmune inflammatory disease that takes a progressive toll on the heart, kidney and liver as well as the joints, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with a high risk of early death. This sobering fact is well known. Less is known about whether longevity has improved for RA patients over the past few decades of remarkable improvements in longevity in the general population. Are earlier diagnosis, breakthrough drugs, and more aggressive antirheumatic treatment regimens paying off in terms of survival"
For answers to this vital question, researchers at the Mayo Clinic conducted a sweeping comparison of mortality trends among RA subjects with those in the general population. Their unsettling results, presented in the November 2007 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/arthritis), underscore the urgent need to find strategies that will work to reduce the excess mortality consistently associated with RA.
Drawn from the comprehensive medical records of all residents of Olmsted County, Minnesota, 822 RA subjects were identified. The subjects included all residents of Rochester, Minnesota, first diagnosed with RA between January 1, 1955, and January 1, 1995, as well as all Olmsted County residents diagnosed with RA between January 1, 1995, and January 1, 2000. The subjects were 71.5 percent women, with a mean age of 57.6 years at RA incidence. All were followed up through their entire medical records until death or January 1, 2007. The median time of follow-up was 11.7 years, during which 445 of the RA subjects died.
Researchers compared the survival rates of patients diagnosed with RA in 5 time periods: 1955-1964, 1965-1974, 1975-1984, 1985-1994, and 1995-2000 using Cox regression models, adjusting for age and sex. In the 5 time periods, there was no significant difference in survival rates for RA subjectswhich also me
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