COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE
MULTICENTER STUDY
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Risk of septic arthritis in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and the effect of anti-TNF therapy: results from the British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Register.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the risk of septic arthritis (SA) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treated with anti-tumour necrosis factor (TNF) therapy.

METHODS: Using data from the British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Register, a prospective observational study, the authors compared the risk of SA between 11 881 anti-TNF-treated and 3673 non-biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (nbDMARD)-treated patients.

RESULTS: 199 patients had at least one episode of SA (anti-TNF: 179, nbDMARD: 20). Incidence rates were: anti-TNF 4.2/1000 patient years (pyrs) follow-up (95% CI 3.6 to 4.8), nbDMARD 1.8/1000 pyrs (95% CI 1.1 to 2.7). The adjusted HR for SA in the anti-TNF cohort was 2.3 (95% CI 1.2 to 4.4). The risk did not differ significantly between the three agents: adalimumab, etanercept and infliximab. The risk was highest in the early months of therapy. The patterns of reported organisms differed in the anti-TNF cohort. Prior joint replacement surgery was a risk factor for SA in all patients. The rate of postoperative joint infection (within 90 days of surgery) was 0.7%. This risk was not significantly influenced by anti-TNF therapy.

CONCLUSIONS: Anti-TNF therapy use in RA is associated with a doubling in the risk of SA. Physicians and surgeons assessing the RA patient should be aware of this potentially life-threatening complication.

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