To examine the occurrence of vertebral deformities in female patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and the relationship between vertebral deformities and bone mineral density (BMD) and between vertebral deformities and clinical variables.
Lateral radiographs of the spine were obtained in 229 female patients with RA (mean age 63.4 years, range 51.4–73.6 years) recruited from a county RA register. Vertebral deformities were measured semiquantitatively by an experienced radiologist. A clinical examination including core measurements of disease activity and severity was performed, and BMD was measured at the spine (L2–L4) and hip.
According to the statistical analysis, 49 patients were considered to have relevant vertebral deformities. The occurrence of vertebral deformities was independently associated with age, long-term corticosteroid use, and previous nonvertebral fracture, as well as reduced BMD. Our results failed to show any independent relationship between vertebral deformities and the activity or severity of disease.
Corticosteroid use is an important marker of established osteoporosis in patients with RA. Additionally, there seems to be a consistent relationship between BMD and vertebral deformities in this patient group.