Objective To investigate the effect of weight loss after bariatric surgery among patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Methods We conducted a retrospective cohort study of RA patients who underwent bariatric surgery (Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, or sleeve gastrectomy) at 2 medical centers. We obtained information on anthropometrics, laboratory values, RA disease activity, and medication use at baseline (prior to surgery), at 6 and 12 months following surgery, and at the most recent followup visits. RA disease activity was determined by clinical or validated measures. At each postsurgical visit, characteristics were compared to baseline. Results We identified 53 RA patients who underwent bariatric surgery. At baseline prior to surgery, mean ± SD body mass index was 47.8 ± 7.7 kg/m2, mean ± SD weight was 128.2 ± 24.1 kg, and 57% had moderate to high RA disease activity. Twelve months following surgery, subjects lost a mean ± SD weight of 41.0 ± 17.3 kg, mean ± SD 70% ± 24% excess weight (P < 0.001). RA disease activity significantly improved at postsurgical visits (P < 0.001). At 12 months following surgery, 6% had moderate to high disease activity, compared to 57% at baseline (P < 0.001). At the most recent followup (mean ± SD 5.8 ± 3.2 years after surgery), 74% were in remission, compared to 26% at baseline (P < 0.001). Subjects had significantly lower erythrocyte sedimentation rate, C-reactive protein level, and RA-related medication use at followup visits compared to baseline (P < 0.05). Conclusion After substantial weight loss from bariatric surgery, RA patients had lower disease activity, decreased serum inflammatory markers, and less RA-related medication use. Weight loss may be an important nonpharmacologic strategy to reduce RA disease activity. However, other factors, such as improved efficacy of medications, improved physical activity, and metabolic changes, may also have contributed to these postsurgical improvements.
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