The prevalence and clinical characteristics of nonradiographic axial spondyloarthritis among patients with inflammatory back pain in rheumatology practices: a multinational, multicenter study

Ruben Burgos-Varga, James Cheng-Chung Wei, Mahboob U Rahman, Nurullah Akkoc, Syed Atiqul Haq, Mohammed Hammoudeh, Ehab Mahgoub, Ena Singh, Lyndon John Llamado, Khalid Shirazy, Sameer Kotak, Constance Hammond, Ron Pedersen, Qi Shen, Bonnie Vlahos
Arthritis Research & Therapy 2016 June 7, 18 (1): 132

BACKGROUND: Patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS), who by definition have radiographic sacroiliitis, typically experience symptoms for a decade or more before being diagnosed. Yet, even patients without radiographic sacroiliitis (i.e., nonradiographic axial spondyloarthritis [nr-axSpA]) report a significant disease burden. The primary objective of this study was to estimate the prevalence and clinical characteristics of nr-axSpA among patients with inflammatory back pain (IBP) in rheumatology clinics in a number of countries across the world. A secondary objective was to estimate the prevalence of IBP among patients with chronic low back pain (CLBP).

METHODS: Data were collected from 51 rheumatology outpatient clinics in 19 countries in Latin America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. As consecutive patients with CLBP (N = 2517) were seen by physicians at the sites, their clinical histories were evaluated to determine whether they met the new Assessment of SpondyloArthritis international Society criteria for IBP. For those who did, their available clinical history (e.g., family history, C-reactive protein [CRP] levels) was documented in a case report form to establish whether they met criteria for nr-axSpA, AS, or other IBP. Patients diagnosed with nr-axSpA or AS completed patient-reported outcome measures to assess disease activity and functional limitations.

RESULTS: A total of 2517 patients with CLBP were identified across all sites. Of these, 974 (38.70 %) fulfilled the criteria for IBP. Among IBP patients, 29.10 % met criteria for nr-axSpA, and 53.72 % met criteria for AS. The prevalence of nr-axSpA varied significantly by region (p < 0.05), with the highest prevalence reported in Asia (36.46 %) and the lowest reported in Africa (16.02 %). Patients with nr-axSpA reported mean ± SD Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease Activity Scores based on erythrocyte sedimentation rate and CRP of 2.62 ± 1.17 and 2.52 ± 1.21, respectively, indicating high levels of disease activity (patients with AS reported corresponding scores of 2.97 ± 1.13 and 2.93 ± 1.18). Similarly, the overall Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease Activity Index score of 4.03 ± 2.23 for patients with nr-axSpA (4.56 ± 2.17 for patients with AS) suggested suboptimal disease control.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that, in the centers that participated in the study, 29 % of patients with IBP met the criteria for nr-axSpA and 39 % of patients with CLBP had IBP. The disease burden in nr-axSpA is substantial and similar to that of AS, with both groups of patients experiencing inadequate disease control. These findings suggest the need for early detection of nr-axSpA and initiation of available treatment options to slow disease progression and improve patient well-being.

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