Conference Coverage

Severe OA sparks depression, surgery “ameliorates” depression in RA



– Structural severity in OA is related to the onset of depressive symptoms while surgery “ameliorates” depression in RA, according to the results of two separate studies presented at the European Congress of Rheumatology.

Using data on more than 1,600 individuals with knee OA from the Osteoarthritis Initiative, Alan Rathbun, PhD, and his associates looked at the components of disease severity and how they might individually contribute to the development of depression. They found that the odds of having depression more than doubled as joint space width increased (odds ratio, 2.25) and gait speed decreased (OR, 2.08), and rose 60% as pain became more severe (OR, 1.60).

Dr. Alan Rathbun, a research associate in the departments of epidemiology and of public health and medicine at the University of Maryland in Baltimore Sara Freeman/MDedge News

Dr. Alan Rathbun

Depression in relation to joint disease in RA was the focus of a separate study in which a team of Japanese researchers reported that there was a significant improvement in presurgery depression scores, as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory–II (BDI-II) following surgery for a range of joint complaints.

Worsening knee OA could set off depression

“Studies have consistently shown that depressive symptoms are associated with worse osteoarthritis disease severity, however, there is a lack of research focused on identifying the specific components that contribute to the onset of depressive symptoms in nondepressed OA patients,” said Dr. Rathbun in an interview ahead of his presentation.

Dr. Rathbun, a research associate in the departments of epidemiology and of public health and medicine at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, also said that while OA guidelines do advise on treating depression, there is no standardized way to manage comorbid depression in routine clinical practice.

“If OA disease severity contributes to the development and worsening of depressive symptoms, it may be necessary to intervene on both conditions simultaneously in order to successfully manage them,” he suggested.

“Depression is a frequently occurring comorbidity in persons with OA,” Dr. Rathbun later observed during a press conference. Around one in five people with knee OA have depression, he said. This is an important fact if you consider how common symptomatic knee OA is – affecting 10% of men and 13% of women aged over 60 years – and the impact that it has on people’s quality of life, healthcare utilization, and mortality.

Dr. Rathbun and colleagues examined data on 1,652 men and women who were part of the Osteoarthritis Initiative, a multicenter, prospective, longitudinal study of knee health sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. For inclusion in the study, participants had to have radiographic knee OA, no depressive symptoms, and complete data on the disease severity components of interest: minimum joint space width, 20-meter gait speed, and the pain subscale of the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index. Depression was assessed using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, with no depression ascribed a score of 16 or under. Data from three additional annual follow-up visits was also required.

“All three components of OA disease progression were associated with an increased risk for the onset of depressive symptoms in those with radiographic knee OA,” Dr. Rathbun said in the interview. While pain severity has previously been linked to depressive symptoms in OA, the finding of worsening structural disease is new.

“The clinical implications of our findings are that the onset of depressive symptoms in OA patients is related to worsening pain, physical function, and structural disease severity,” he added. They also mean that these components and depression need to be targeted at the same time.

“Future studies need to ascertain whether depressive symptoms modify clinical response to analgesic medications in OA patients,” Dr. Rathbun suggested. “Considering that analgesics are often the first-line treatment for OA patients and the high prevalence of depressive symptoms in this population, comorbid depression may be an important contributor to ineffective medical management in the many OA patients who undergo total joint replacement.”

Next Article: