NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – People with rheumatoid arthritis who suffer a stroke are likely to have lower functional ability subsequently than stroke patients without arthritis, according to a new study.

Dr. Tracy U. Nguyen-Oghalai, of the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, and colleagues designed their study to see whether the swelling and pain that accompanies rheumatoid arthritis or lupus interferes with stroke rehabilitation.

The researchers reviewed data on 47,853 stroke patients who underwent in-hospital stroke rehabilitation between 1994 and 2001. Of these, 368 patients had rheumatoid arthritis and 119 had lupus.

The average Functional Independence Measure (FIM) ratings at discharge were 85.8 in people with rheumatoid arthritis, compared with 87.8 for patients with neither arthritis nor lupus, the team reports in the medical journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

At follow-up, the average FIM ratings were 95.9 for patients with rheumatoid arthritis and 99.6 for those without rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

The investigators’ next step “is to determine whether outpatient therapy after discharge from inpatient rehabilitation can facilitate more functional recovery and reduce long-term functional disability among patients with rheumatoid arthritis,” Nguyen-Oghalai told Reuters Health.

SOURCE: Arthritis & Rheumatism, July 2008.