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J Rheumatol. 1998 Apr;25(4):636-40.

Early radiographic joint space narrowing and erosion and later malalignment in rheumatoid arthritis: a longitudinal analysis.

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Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232-4500, USA.



To analyze the time course of development of radiographic erosion, joint space narrowing, and malalignment in a longitudinal study of radiographs of the hands and wrists of 58 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) taken over 18 years.


Among 210 consecutive patients in a reported cohort, 58 had at least one prior available radiograph 2-18 years earlier. A total of 141 hand and wrist radiographs in the 58 patients were scored for joint space narrowing, erosion, and malalignment in individual joints.


Of the 58 patients studied, all developed joint space narrowing, 56 (96.5%) developed erosions, while only 24 (41.4%) developed malalignment. In radiographs of 22 patient studied within the first 5 years of disease, joint space narrowing was seen in 17 (77.3%), erosion in 16 (72.7%), and malalignment in only 3 (13.6%). Radiographic progression was seen in all 36 patients in whom the interval between radiographs was longer than 2 years.


Joint space narrowing and erosion are seen in hand radiographs of most patients with RA seen in treatment centers within the first 5 years of disease. By contrast, malalignment develops in fewer patients, and generally only after 5 years of disease.

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