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Causes of death in rheumatoid arthritis: how do they compare to the general population?

Widdifield J, Paterson JM, Huang A, Bernatsky S. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2018; 70(12):1748-55. Epub 2018 Mar 7.


Objective — To compare mortality rates, underlying causes of death, excess mortality and years of potential life lost (YPLL) among rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients relative to the general population.

Methods — We studied an inception cohort of 87,114 Ontario RA patients and 348,456 age/sex/area-matched general population comparators over 2000 to 2013. All-cause, cause-specific, and excess mortality rates, mortality rate ratios (MRRs), and YPLL were estimated.

Results — A total of 11,778 (14% of) RA patients and 32,472 (9% of) comparators died during 508,385 and 1,769,365 person-years (PY) of follow-up, respectively, for corresponding mortality rates of 232 (95% CI 228, 236) and 184 (95% CI 182, 186) per 10,000 PYs. Leading causes of death in both groups were diseases of the circulatory system, cancer, and respiratory conditions. Increased mortality for all-cause and specific causes was observed in RA relative to the general population. MRRs were elevated for most causes of death. Age-specific mortality ratios illustrated a high excess mortality among RA patients under 45 years of age for respiratory disease and circulatory disease. RA patients lost 7,436 potential years of life per 10,000 persons, compared with 4,083 YPLL among those without RA.

Conclusion — Mortality rates were increased in RA patients relative to the general population across most causes of death. The potential life years lost (before the age of 75) among RA patients was roughly double that among those without RA, reflecting higher rate ratios for most causes of death and RA patients dying at earlier ages.

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