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Abstract

Erosions and cartilage destruction are nearly universal features in peripheral joints that have been chronically affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Scoring methods to measure the extent of these abnormalities in hands and wrists have been developed and have been thoroughly tested in several studies to establish their reproducibility. In this study, we utilized one of these scoring methods to examine the progression of radiologic damage as related to duration of disease. Two hundred ninety-two patients from 3 different participating centers in the Arthritis, Rheumatism, and Aging Medical Information System were included. Six hundred fifty films of the hands and wrists, obtained from 210 patients, were scored for erosions and joint space narrowing. The average annual rate of progression of the total radiologic score, which sums erosion and joint space abnormalities and has a maximum possible score of 314, was approximately 4 units per year over the first 25 years after onset; this progression was more rapid in the earlier years of disease and slightly slower in the later years. Data were insufficient to accurately determine the progression rate in disease of more than 25 years duration.