Causes of death in patients with rheumatoid arthritis from 1971 to 1991 with special reference to autopsy.

Research paper by Riitta R Koivuniemi, Leena L Paimela, Marjatta M Leirisalo-Repo

Indexed on: 18 Sep '09Published on: 18 Sep '09Published in: Clinical Rheumatology


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients have premature mortality, mostly attributed to cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). We studied causes of death (CoDs) and contribution of autopsy to them in RA patients treated at a single hospital responsible for primary to tertiary RA treatment in Helsinki. In 1971-1991, 960 RA patients died. The leading CoDs were CVDs, RA, and infections. Over 1971-1991, RA and renal deaths declined, but other CoDs showed no change. Autopsied patients died more frequently than nonautopsied of coronary heart disease (CHD) and gastrointestinal disorders, but less frequently of RA, renal, and endocrinologic diseases. Our finding of autopsied patients having CHD more frequently as a CoD may indicate that CHD, which may be asymptomatic in RA, may be overlooked during lifetime.