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J Rheumatol. 2009 Dec;36(12):2635-41. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.090569. Epub 2009 Nov 16.

Systematic review and metaanalysis of patient self-report versus trained assessor joint counts in rheumatoid arthritis.

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  • 1Division of Rheumatology, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143, USA.



Patient self-report outcomes and physician-performed joint counts are important measures of disease activity and treatment response. This metaanalysis examines the degree of concordance in joint counts between trained assessors and patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


Studies eligible for inclusion met the following criteria: English language; compared patient with trained assessor joint counts; peer-reviewed; and RA diagnosis determined by board-certified or board-eligible specialist or met 1987 American College of Rheumatology criteria. We searched PubMed and Embase to identify articles between 1966 and January 1, 2008. We compared measures of correlation between patients and assessors for either tender/painful or swollen joint counts. We used metaanalysis methods to calculate summary correlation estimates.


We retrieved 462 articles and 18 were included. Self-report joint counts were obtained by a text and/or mannequin (picture) format. The summary estimates for the Pearson correlation coefficients for tender joint counts were 0.61 (0.47 lower, 0.75 upper) and for swollen joint counts 0.44 (0.15, 0.73). Summary results for the Spearman correlation coefficients were 0.60 (0.30, 0.90) for tender joint counts and 0.54 (0.35, 0.73) for swollen joint counts.


A self-report tender joint count has moderate to marked correlation with those performed by a trained assessor. In contrast, swollen joint counts demonstrate lower levels of correlation. Future research should explore whether integrating self-report tender joint counts into routine care can improve efficiency and quality of care, while directly involving patients in assessment of RA disease activity.

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