OBJECTIVE: Fatigue is common and burdensome in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Despite RA fatigue progression varying significantly between individuals in practice, existing longitudinal analyses only examine symptom advancement on a population level. This study aimed to determine fatigue trajectories at an individual level and to characterize those patients with the poorest prognosis, with a view to enabling earlier interventions.
METHODS: Patients with RA reporting clinically relevant baseline fatigue (≥ 20 mm on a 0-100 mm visual analog scale) were identified from a longterm inflammatory polyarthritis cohort (the Norfolk Arthritis Register). Fatigue changes from baseline to 1- and 4-year followups were calculated, and sex-stratified group-based trajectory modeling (GBTM) determined trajectories of the symptom between which baseline characteristics were compared.
RESULTS: Among 338 patients, only minimal average changes were observed between recruitment to 1 year (6.0 mm, SD 26.9) and 4 years (5.5 mm, SD 29.3). This was despite 45.6% and 40.7% of participants reporting clinically significant improvements (≥ 10 mm) at these respective followups. GBTM revealed varied trajectories of fatigue, which for both sexes consisted of Improved (men, n = 48 and women, n = 81) or persistent Moderate-high paths (n = 54, n = 105), and further included a persistent High trajectory in women (n = 50). Participants who followed persistent trajectories were best distinguished from improvers by patient-reported rather than demographic or clinical variables.
CONCLUSION: Among patients with RA presenting with clinically relevant fatigue, distinct longitudinal symptom trajectories were identified on an individual level despite nominal average changes in fatigue on a group level. It is possible to identify and characterize subgroups of participants who report persistent fatigue and should therefore be targeted to receive future fatigue-alleviating interventions.
- rheumatoid arthritis