Though excellent clinical results have been reported for total joint arthroplasty (TJA) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, the longitudinal effects of TJA on pain, physical function, and health-related quality of life in RA patients remain unknown. This study aimed to assess changes in disease activity and health-related quality of life after TJA in patients with established RA. We analyzed the effect of total knee arthroplasty (TKA) and total hip arthroplasty (THA) on RA disease activity in an observational cohort of RA patients. Of the registered RA patients, 333 TKA and 77 THA patients were followed for 5 years after surgery. RA disease activity and health-related quality of life were measured using the Disease Activity Score 28 (DAS28) and a Japanese version of the Stanford health assessment questionnaire (J-HAQ). The mean DAS28 in TKA patients decreased from 4.66 (preoperatively) to 4.02 (3 years postoperatively) and to 3.94 (5 years postoperatively); the mean DAS28 in THA patients decreased from 4.41 (preoperatively) to 3.99 (3 years postoperatively) and to 3.92 (5 years postoperatively). The mean J-HAQ for TKA remained essentially unchanged, ranging from 1.48 (preoperatively) to 1.45 (3 years postoperatively) and to 1.47 (5 years postoperatively); the mean J-HAQ for THA also remained unchanged, ranging from 1.74 (preoperatively) to 1.74 (3 years postoperatively) and to 1.73 (5 years postoperatively). Of the total J-HAQ score, the lower limb score improved while the upper limb score worsened. Although TKA and THA improve clinical outcomes in damaged knees and hips and have a positive secondary systemic effect on RA disease activity, they have not had a continuously good effect on the measures of health-related quality of life. We conclude that tight control of RA disease activity is indicated for those patients with TKA and/or THA.
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