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Gut. 1998 Mar;42(3):387-91.

Peripheral arthropathies in inflammatory bowel disease: their articular distribution and natural history.

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  • 1Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Radcliffe Infirmary, UK.



Peripheral arthropathy is a well-recognised complication of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Little is known of its natural history, but a variety of joint involvement has been described, from large joint pauciarticular arthropathy to a rheumatoid pattern polyarthropathy.


To classify the peripheral arthropathies according to pattern of articular involvement, and study their natural history and clinical associations.


The case notes of all patients attending the Oxford IBD clinic were reviewed, and information on general disease characteristics, extraintestinal features, and arthropathy extracted. This was confirmed by direct patient interview using questionnaires at routine follow up. Patients with recorded joint swelling or effusion were classified as type 1 (pauciarticular) if less than five joints were involved and type 2 (polyarticular) if five or more were involved. Patients without evidence of swelling were classified as arthralgia.


In total, 976 patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) and 483 with Crohn's disease (CD) were reviewed. Type 1 occurred in 3.6% of patients with UC (83% acute and self-limiting) and in 6.0% of those with CD (79% self-limiting); 83% and 76%, respectively, were associated with relapsing IBD. Type 2 occurred in 2.5% of patients with UC and 4.0% of those with CD; 87% and 89%, respectively, caused persistent symptoms whereas only 29% and 42%, respectively, were associated with relapsing IBD.


Enteropathic peripheral arthropathy without axial involvement can be subdivided into a pauciarticular, large joint arthropathy, and a bilateral symmetrical polyarthropathy, each being distinguished by its articular distribution and natural history.

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