Outlook Has Improved for Arthritis Patients

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Hospitalizations for severe complications due to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) declined between 1983 and 2001. From 1983 to 1987, there were 148.7 hospitalizations for rheumatoid vascular inflammation per 100,000 RA patients. This figure fell to 97.8 for the period 1998-2001. There was a surge in total knee replacement between 1983 and 1997, but this trend reversed between 1997 and 2001, according to a report in Arthritis & Rheumatism (April 2004).

Researcher Michael M. Ward, MD, identified individuals with RA age 40 and older, using data files from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. He utilized these data to spot markers of severe disease and failure of treatment to properly control the condition. The results suggested that "the decreased rates of hospitalization for manifestations of severe RA were not due to changes in the use of hospital care from 1983 to 2001, but rather were specific to manifestations of RA," Dr. Ward said.