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EULAR definition of “arthralgia suspicious for progression to rheumatoid arthritis” in a large cohort of patients included in a program for rapid diagnosis: role of auto-antibodies and ultrasound

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To evaluate the performance of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) definition of arthralgias suspicious for progression to RA in patients with hand arthralgias and to estimate the added value of both auto-antibodies and ultrasound (US) with power Doppler (PD).


Consecutive patients admitted for hand arthralgias to “Reuma-check” ® program were included. This program includes the following at baseline: clinical assessment, laboratory tests, US with PD of both hands, and radiography of both hands and feet. All patients were followed-up after baseline evaluation by their treating rheumatologists, and a definitive diagnosis of RA (ACR/EULAR 2010 criteria) was established or not.


A total of 465 consecutive patients were included. During follow-up, 44 (9.4%) were diagnosed with RA. Mean of baseline EULAR features describing arthralgia suspicious for progression to RA was 4.1 in patients with final diagnosis of RA vs 2.3 in non-RA patients (p < 0.0001). The AUC for the EULAR defined features describing arthralgia suspicious for progression to RA for the final diagnosis of RA was 0.7827, while adding US with PD, rheumatoid factor (RF), and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies (ACPA) data, the AUC was 0.9172 (p < 0.0001). In the multivariate regression logistic analysis, baseline features associated with a final diagnosis of RA were difficulty with making a fist, RF, ACPA, and US with PD.


EULAR definition of arthralgia suspicious for progression to RA had an acceptable performance to predict the future development of RA and improves adding information of both RF, ACPA and US with PD data.

Key Points

• Clinically suspect arthralgia may trigger rheumatologists to monitor patients closely for an early diagnosis.

• EULAR definition of arthralgia suspicious for progression to RA predicts future development of arthritis.

• Auto-antibodies and ultrasound improve EULAR definition of arthralgia suspicious for progression to RA.

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The authors acknowledge all physicians from Hospital Italiano de La Plata who referred patients for the present study.

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All authors contributed substantially to the conception and design of the work and acquisition and interpretation of the data. SR and RGS additionally analyzed the data and drafted the initial version of the manuscript. The final manuscript has been revised critically and approved by all the authors, and they have given the necessary attention to ensure the integrity of the work.

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Correspondence to Santiago Ruta.

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Ruta, S., Prado, E.S., Chichande, J.T. et al. EULAR definition of “arthralgia suspicious for progression to rheumatoid arthritis” in a large cohort of patients included in a program for rapid diagnosis: role of auto-antibodies and ultrasound. Clin Rheumatol 39, 1493–1499 (2020).

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