Early rheumatoid arthritis: can we predict its outcome?
The continuing trend towards more aggressive treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has seen an increasing interest in the early phase of this chronic inflammatory disease. Optimal benefit from present and emerging therapies is limited by our prognostic abilities during this period. The present review attempts to outline first the many methodological issues encountered in studies of early RA, and second the extent to which each major outcome measure can be explained, both by readily available clinical variables and by HLA-DR genotyping. The evidence supporting the clinical usefulness of genotyping is discussed separately. Based on this information, a clinically appropriate approach to the management of early RA and the identification of patients suitable for experimental therapies is suggested. (Intern Med J 2001; 31: 168–180)