BACKGROUND: There is significant interest in determining risk factors in individuals at risk of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A core set of risk factors for clinical arthritis development has not been defined.
METHODS: A literature search and systematic literature review (SLR) was conducted to identify risk factors in individuals at risk of RA using Medline, Embase, PubMed and Central databases.
RESULTS: 3854 articles were identified by the literature search. After screening of titles, 138 abstracts were reviewed and 96 articles finally included. Fifty-three articles included data on risk factors including autoantibodies, subclinical inflammation on imaging, clinical features, serum and cellular biomarkers and genetic markers. Risk factors were dependent on the at-risk population. There was good evidence for serum anticitrullinated protein antibodies (ACPA) levels, as risk factors for arthritis in all at-risk populations (n=13 articles). Subclinical inflammation on ultrasound (n=12) and MRI (n=6) was reported as a risk factor in multiple studies in at-risk individuals with musculoskeletal (MSK) symptoms and undifferentiated arthritis (UA). Clinical features were reported as a risk factor in at-risk individuals with MSK symptoms and UA (n=13). Other risk factors, including serum and cellular markers were less frequently reported.
CONCLUSIONS: Risk factors for arthritis development in RA are specific to the at-risk population. Serum ACPA confers risk in all populations; subclinical inflammation on imaging and clinical features confer risk in at-risk individuals with MSK symptoms. This SLR informed the EULAR taskforce for points to consider on conducting clinical trials and studies in individuals at risk of RA.