A new study says that assessing hand bone mineral density may help determine mortality and long-term prognosis in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
The study led by Dr Christina Book of Malmo University Hospital, Sweden revealed that measurement of bone mineral density by help calculate the course of RA.
Using the digital X-ray radiogrammetry (DXR), researchers demonstrated bone mineral density to be as effective predicting mortality as well-established means of assessment such as radiographic damage and functional disability.
The study was conducted over 152 consecutive patients with 119 women and 33 men with mean disease duration of 13 years.
The X-rays of the hands at inclusion were available in 108 patients, and in 84 of these, bone mineral density was evaluated by DXR on the same digitised hand X-rays used for scoring radiographic joint damage.
During the study, different standard measures of disease activity were investigated in order to assess their capacity to predict all-cause mortality.
"This long-term study establishes that measurement of bone mineral density in the hand may be an important physical gauge in anticipating the course of rheumatoid arthritis," said Book.
"It offers physicians an effective tool for assessing a patient's disease and so developing the most appropriate individual management plan," she added.
The new study was presented at EULAR 2008, the Annual Congress of the European League Against Rheumatism in Paris, France.