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Scand J Rheumatol. 2003;32(4):216-24.

The costs of early inflammatory joint disease: a population-based study in southern Sweden.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Växjö Central Hospital, 351 85 Växjö, Sweden.



To study the costs and use of healthcare for patients during the first months with early joint inflammation, in a population-based prospective referral study in Southern Sweden.


Adult patients with arthritis for < 3 months and with onset of symptoms between 1 May 1999 and 1 May 2000 were referred from primary health centres to rheumatologists. Four clinical assessments were performed during a 6-month follow-up period. The direct medical costs for inpatient stays, outpatient visits, visits to general practitioners, and visits to health professionals, as well as costs for medication, radiographs, and laboratory tests were recorded from the onset of the disease up to 6 months of follow-up. Indirect costs for sick leave were also recorded.


Fifty-six of 71 referred patients agreed to participate. Thirteen (23%) had RA, 21 (38%) had reactive arthritis (ReA), 14 (25%) had undifferentiated arthritis, and eight (14%) had other arthritides. The median cost per patient in the entire group was USD 3362. The median cost per patient in the RA group was USD 4385, and USD 4085 in the ReA group. There was no statistically significant difference in the median costs per patient in the different diagnostic groups. Sick leave accounted for 44% of the total costs in the entire group, and 46% and 47%, respectively, in the RA and ReA groups.


The costs of early arthritis are already considerable during the first months of the disease following the onset of the symptoms. The indirect costs due to sick leave accounted for nearly half of the costs.

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