Objective. To evaluate, firstly, all published data on baseline and annual progression rates of radiographic damage from all longitudinal observational cohorts, and secondly, the association of standard clinical and laboratory parameters with long-term radiographic joint damage.
Methods. A comprehensive search of the literature from 1975 to 2014, using PubMed, SCOPUS and Cochrane databases, identified a total of 28 studies that investigated long-term radiographic progression, and 41 studies investigating predictors of long-term radiographic progression. This was submitted and approved by PROSPERO in February 2014 (Registration Number: CRD42014007589).
Results. Meta-analysis indicated an overall baseline rate of 2.02%, and a yearly increase of 1.08% of maximum damage. Stratified analysis found that baseline radiographic scores did not differ significantly between cohorts recruiting patients pre- and post-1990 (2.01% vs 2.03%; P > 0.01); however, the annual rate of progression was significantly reduced in the post-1990 cohorts (0.68% vs 1.50%; P < 0.05). High levels of acute phase markers, baseline radiographic damage, anti-CCP and RF positivity remain consistently predictive of long-term radiographic joint damage.
Conclusion. Critical changes in treatment practices over the last three decades are likely to explain the reduction in the long-term progression of structural joint damage. Acute phase markers and presence of RF/anti-CCP are strongly associated with increased radiographic progression.