Substitution of specialized rheumatology nurses for rheumatologists in the diagnostic process of fibromyalgia: A randomized controlled trial


  • ISRCTN: 77212411.



To evaluate the substitution of specialized rheumatology nurses for rheumatologists in diagnosing fibromyalgia (FM).


Referred patients with FM symptoms (n = 193) were randomized to a study group diagnosed by a specialized rheumatology nurse (SRN group, n = 97) or to a control group diagnosed by a rheumatologist (RMT group, n = 96). SRN patients were seen within 3 weeks by a nurse who took structured history and initiated routine laboratory tests. During a 5-minute supervision session, the rheumatologist was informed by the nurse about medical history, performed a brief physical examination, and confirmed or rejected the nurse's diagnosis. RMT patients were seen by a rheumatologist after a regular waiting period of 3 months. Outcome measures were initial agreement between the nurse and rheumatologist in the SRN group, final diagnosis after 12–24 months of followup, patient satisfaction, and diagnostic costs.


The mean waiting time after randomization was 2.8 and 12.1 weeks in the SRN and RMT groups, respectively. Eight RMT patients cancelled their appointments because of the waiting time. Excellent agreement (κ = 0.91) between rheumatologists and nurses was found. After 12–24 months of followup, none of the initial diagnoses were recalled in either group. SRN patients were significantly more satisfied than RMT patients. Mean diagnostic costs were lower in the SRN group (€219) than in the RMT group (€281) (95% uncertainty interval €−103, €−20).


Substituting specialized nurses for rheumatologists in the diagnostic process of FM is a trustworthy and successful approach that saves waiting time, provides greater patient satisfaction, and is cost-effective.