Journal Article

Oral abstracts 1: SpondyloarthropathiesO1. Detecting axial spondyloarthritis amongst primary care back pain referrals

Claire Harris, Denis Remedios, Tanya Aptowitzer and Andrew Keat

in Rheumatology

Volume 51, issue suppl_3, pages iii19-iii26
Published in print May 2012 | ISSN: 1462-0324
Published online March 2012 | e-ISSN: 1462-0332 | DOI:
Oral abstracts 1: SpondyloarthropathiesO1. Detecting axial spondyloarthritis amongst primary care back pain referrals

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Background: Inflammatory back pain (IBP) is an early feature of ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and its detection offers the prospect of early diagnosis of AS. However, since back pain is very common but only a very small minority of back pain sufferers have ASpA or AS, screening of back pain sufferers for AS is problematic. In early disease radiographs are often normal so that fulfilment of diagnostic criteria for AS is impossible though a diagnosis of axial SpA can be made if MRI evidence of sacroiliitis is present. This pilot study was designed to indicate whether a cost-effective pick up rate for ASpA/early AS could be achieved by identifying adults with IBP stratified on the basis of age.

Methods: Patients aged between 18 and 45 years who were referred to a hospital physiotherapy service with back pain of more than 3 months duration were assessed for IBP. All were asked to complete a questionnaire based on the Berlin IBP criteria. Those who fulfilled IBP criteria were also asked to complete a second short questionnaire enquiring about SpA comorbidities, to have a blood test for HLA-B27 and CRP level and to undergo an MRI scan of the sacroiliac joints. This was a limited scan, using STIR, diffusion-weighted, T1 and T2 sequences of the sacroiliac joints to minimize time in the scanner and cost. The study was funded by a research grant from Abbott Laboratories Ltd.

Results: 50 sequential patients agreed to participate in the study and completed the IBP questionnaire. Of these 27 (54%) fulfilled criteria for IBP. Of these, 2 patients reported a history of an SpA comorbidity - 1 psoriasis; 1 ulcerative colitis - and 3 reported a family history of an SpA comorbidity - 2 psoriasis; 1 Crohn’s disease. 4 were HLA-B27 positive, though results were not available for 7. Two patients had marginally raised CRP levels (6, 10 -NR ≤ 5).

19 agreed to undergo MRI scanning of the sacroiliac joints and lumbar spine; 4 scans were abnormal, showing evidence of bilateral sacroiliitis on STIR sequences. In all cases the changes met ASAS criteria but were limited. Of these 4 patients 3 were HLA-B27 positive but none gave a personal or family history of an SpA-associated comorbidity and all had normal CRP levels.

Conclusions: This was a pilot study yielding only limited conclusions. However, it is clear that:

Screening of patients referred for physiotherapy for IBP is straightforward, inexpensive and quick.

It appears that IBP is more prevalent in young adults than overall population data suggest so that targeting this population may be efficient.

IBP questionnaires could be administered routinely during a physiotherapy assessment.

HLA-B27 testing in this group of patients with IBP is a suitable screening tool.

The sacroiliac joint changes identified were mild and their prognostic significance is not yet clear so that the value of early screening needs further evaluation.

Disclosure statement: C.H. received research funding for this study from Abbott. A.K. received research funding for this study, and speaker and consultancy fees, from Abbott. All other authors have declared no conflicts of interest.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Rheumatology

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