Identification of patients with exposure to viral hepatitis is an important part of the care of patients with inflammatory arthritis. This study was conducted to assess the extent of hepatitis B and C screening, and the prevalence of viral hepatitis in a cohort of patients with established rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The medical records of 100 consecutive RA patients were retrospectively analysed for screening of hepatitis B surface antigen, surface antibody and core antibody and hepatitis C antibody. A teaching session was then conducted with the rheumatology team, emphasising the rationale for viral hepatitis testing. We then prospectively analysed 100 more RA patients to see if hepatitis screening improved. In the initial 100 patients (21 % male, mean age 65 years), 85 % were taking methotrexate and 22 % biologic treatments. A complete hepatitis screen was present in 8 %, while 12 % had hepatitis B core antibody checked and 53 % had been tested for hepatitis C.
The second cohort of patients was similar to the first in terms of demographics and treatment. A complete hepatitis screen was available in 63 %, while 65 % had hepatitis B core antibody checked and 81 % had been tested for hepatitis C.
In total, we identified 4 new cases of positive hepatitis B core antibody, 11 cases of positive hepatitis B surface antibody and 1 case of positive hepatitis C antibody. Even in populations where hepatitis B or C is non-endemic, screening will reveal new cases. Educational initiatives are helpful in teaching staff to screen patients.
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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