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Open Access Research article

Changes and sex differences in patient reported outcomes in rheumatoid factor positive RA–results from a community based study

Korosh Hekmat*, Lennart T Jacobsson, Jan-Åke Nilsson, Ylva Lindroth and Carl Turesson

Author Affiliations

Department of Clinical Sciences, Section of Rheumatology, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2014, 15:44  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-44

Published: 20 February 2014



Patient reported outcomes (PROs) are important measures in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A register of patients with RA from all rheumatology care providers in Malmö, Sweden, was established in 1997 and has been continually updated. This register includes virtually all the RA patients in the area. The aim of this study was to analyse PROs in surveys of this population conducted between 1997 and 2009, and to assess differences in treatment and outcome in male and female patients.


In 1997, 2002, 2005 and 2009, questionnaires were sent to the RA patients in the register (n = 1016 in 1997; n = 916 in 2002; n = 1625 in 2005; n = 1700 in 2009). Response rates varied between 62 % and 74 %, and 72-74 % was women. Questionnaire data included medication and measures of disability and health related quality of life. Data on rheumatoid factor (RF) tests were retrieved from the databases of the two clinical immunology laboratories in the area. In order to limit the impact of changes in the case mix over time, the study was restricted to RF positive patients. The analyses were stratified by sex.


Patients reported less severe outcomes for all measures in the later surveys compared to 1997, and patients’ global disease activity assessment and self-reported pain were further improved in 2009 compared to 2005. Treatment with biologics increased over time from 1997 (none) to 2009 (29%), with no difference between men and women. Visual analogue scales (0-100) for patients’ global assessment of disease activity [mean 45 (95 % CI (45-47) vs. 38 (35-40)] and pain [mean 46 (44-49) vs. 38 (36-40)] decreased from 1997 to 2009, with numerically greater improvement in male patients. The mean SF-36 physical component scores also improved, and were higher in men than in women in all surveys.


Pharmacologic treatment of RA became more extensive over time, and there was improvement in all PROs. Despite similar treatment, male patients reported better outcomes, in particular for pain and physical function, compared to female patients. We suggest that patient reported outcomes should be reported separately in male and female patients with RA.