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Osteoporos Int. 2012 Feb;23(2):581-7. doi: 10.1007/s00198-011-1584-3. Epub 2011 Feb 25.

Prevalence of vertebral fractures in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: revisiting the role of glucocorticoids.

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  • 1Rheumatology Department, Cochin Hospital, Paris-Descartes University, Paris, France.



Vertebral fracture assessment (VFA) is a convenient tool for the diagnosis of vertebral fracture in RA. Optimal control of inflammation may be an effective means to protect against vertebral fractures.


The aim of this case-control study was to assess the prevalence of vertebral fractures (VFs) in patients with RA using VFA technology.


Consecutive women (N = 101, 56.1 ± 14.2 years) with RA (mean disease duration, 14.9 ± 10 years) were recruited in the study. Clinical and biological statuses and treatments including glucocorticoids were assessed. Controls (N = 303), randomly selected from the general population, were individually matched to each case for age.


The prevalences of osteoporosis were 55.4% and 10.5% in patients and controls, respectively. Among the subjects, 21.7% and 4.2% had a vertebral fracture in the RA and control groups, respectively. Compared with controls, patients with RA had an increased risk of VFs: odds ratio (OR) (CI 95%) adjusted on body mass index was 6.5 (3.1, 13.9). In a multiple logistic regression analysis, VFs were independently associated with presence of non-vertebral fractures (OR = 9.2 [2.5-33.5]), presence of a fall in the previous year (OR = 4.6 [1.2-18.3]), current use of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) (OR = 0.05 [0.004, 0.51]) and current use of steroids (OR = 0.17 [0.04, 0.67]).


Rheumatoid arthritis is a risk factor of VF (OR = 6.5). VFA is a convenient tool for this diagnosis. Presence of VF is inversely related to the use of DMARD and glucocorticoids, enhancing the hypothesis that an appropriate control of the disease may be a protective factor against bone fragility.

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