Fibrosis-4 index at diagnosis can predict all-cause mortality in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: A retrospective monocentric study

Objectives: Comorbidities and conventional risk factors influence the prognosis of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We investigated whether liver fibrosis burden is associated with all-cause mortality in patients with RA.

Methods: A total of 2812 patients with RA were retrospectively selected and reviewed. Liver fibrosis was assessed using the fibrosis-4 index (FIB-4) [age (years)× aspartate aminotransferase level (IU/L)/platelet count (109/L)/√alanine aminotransferase (IU/L)].

Results: The mean patient age was 51.5 years (482 men and 2330 women). The mean erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-reactive protein (CRP) level, and FIB-4 were 43.5 mm/h, 9.0 mg/L, and 1.0, respectively. Methotrexate was used in 2524 (89.9%) patients, and biological or targeted synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs were used in 310 (11.0%) patients. During the follow-up period (mean 93.7 months), 89 (3.2%) patients died. Deceased patients had a significantly higher age (mean 64.4 vs. 51.1 years); frequency of male sex (31.5% vs. 16.7%), hypertension (HTN; 40.4 vs. 18.5%), and diabetes mellitus (DM; 25.8% vs. 7.7%); ESR (mean 57.1 vs. 43.0 mm/h); CRP (mean 16.9 vs. 8.7 mg/L); and FIB-4 (mean 1.5 vs. 1.0) (all p < .05) than the survivors. On multivariate analysis, higher FIB-4 was found to be independently associated with a higher rate of all-cause mortality (hazard ratio =1.130, p = .004), together with male sex, HTN, DM, ESR, and intensity of glucocorticoid exposure, whereas the use of methotrexate was independently protective (all p < .05).

Conclusion: Besides conventional risk factors, fibrotic burden, assessed using FIB-4, might be useful for risk stratification of patients newly diagnosed as having RA.