Does early arthritis clinic organisation improve outcomes? What evidence is there? A systematic review

M. Govoni, C. A. Scirè, M. Manara, N. Malavolta, L. Mancarella, G. Sandri, F. Mascella, P. L. Macchioni, G. Delsante, M. Padovan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives. To perform a systematic review aimed to identify studies addressing the effect of the establishment of a structured organisation programme, named early arthritis clinic (EAC), finalised to manage patients with early arthritis (EA) or suspected early rheumatoid arthritis (ERA). Methods. A literature search was performed until May 2012 using electronic databases. Additional information was obtained through a hand and grey literature search. Primary and secondary outcomes and eligibility criteria have been defined. Results. The search provided a total of 3367 citations and, after the selection process, 11 non randomised controlled trials were selected, including a total of 8240 participants. The efficacy of EAC did clearly emerge with regard to reduction of the referral lag time and of the time to treatment (secondary outcomes). Only two studies met the primary outcomes: one study demonstrated that the EAC contributed to reducing disease activity and radiographic progression but not functional disability, while another reported a reduction of pain after a 6-12-month period of follow-up. Conclusion. Whether the establishment of EAC would improve the prognosis of EA in terms of primary outcomes such as clinical, functional and radiologic progression compared to patients managed outside from EAC does appear a still poorly addressed issue in the literature, which should be recognised as an urgent unmet need by the rheumatology community to gain more evidencebased information on this topic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-451
Number of pages9
JournalClinical and Experimental Rheumatology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Early arthritis
  • Early arthritis clinic
  • Early rheumatoid arthritis
  • Health care organisation
  • Referral

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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