, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 581-587
Date: 25 Feb 2011

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

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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.