(HealthDay News) – The incidence of upper and lower gastrointestinal (GI) events is higher among patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), as is the risk of mortality due to GI events, when compared to individuals without RA.

Elena Myasoedova, MD, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, MN, and colleagues used data from a population-based cohort of patients with RA and individuals without RA in Olmsted County, MN, to measure the incidence of upper and lower GI events. A total of 813 patients with RA and 813 controls were followed for a mean of 10.3 and 10.8 years, respectively.

The researchers found that the rates of both upper and lower GI events per 100 person-years were significantly higher among individuals with RA compared with those without RA (2.9 vs. 1.7 for upper events [rate ratio, 1.7] and 2.1 vs. 1.4 for lower GI events [rate ratio, 1.5]). Both upper and lower events correlated with increased mortality risk in patients with RA. Glucocorticoid exposure, previous upper GI bleed, abdominal surgery, and smoking were linked with lower GI events in patients with RA. Over time, the incidence of lower GI events remained unchanged, and the rate of upper GI bleeds, perforations, ulcers, obstruction, or other upper GI events decreased.

“There is increased risk of serious upper and lower GI events in RA compared to non-RA subjects, and increased GI-related mortality in RA,” the authors write.

The study was funded by Roche Pharmaceuticals.

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