Clinical features in primary care electronic records before diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis: a nested case-control study

Mohammed T. Bashir, Lisa Iversen, Christopher Burton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) often has a long period from first symptom presentation to diagnosis. We examined the occurrence of symptoms, prescriptions and diagnostic tests in primary care electronic records over time prior to a diagnosis of AS.

Nested case-control study using anonymised primary care electronic health records from Scotland. Cases were 74 adults with a first diagnosis of AS between 2000 and 2010. Controls were matched for age, sex and GP practice: (a) 296 randomly selected adults (b) 169 adults whose records contained codes indicating spinal conditions or symptoms.

We extracted clinical features (symptoms, AS-related disorders, prescriptions and diagnostic tests). Conditional logistic regression was used to examine the association between clinical features (both individually and in combinations) and diagnosis of AS. We examined the associations between clinical features and diagnosis over time prior to diagnosis.

Several new composite pointers were predictive of AS: including distinct episodes of axial pain separated by more than 6 months (OR 12.7, 95% CI 4.7 to 34.6); the occurrence of axial pain with and tendon symptoms within the same year (OR 21.7, 95% CI 2.6 to 181.5); and the co-occurrence (within 30 days) of axial pain and a prescription for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (OR 10.4, 95%CI 4.9 to 22.1). Coded episodes of axial pain increased steadily over the 3 years before diagnosis. In contrast, large joint symptoms and enthesopathy showed little or no time trend prior to diagnosis.

We identified novel composite pointers to a diagnosis of AS in GP records. These may represent valuable targets for diagnostic support systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number78
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Family Practice
Early online date6 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by a vacation scholarship bursary from North East Scotland Faculty of the Royal College of General Practitioners (MTB). The funder had no role in the design, conduct or reporting of the study.


  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Diagnosis
  • Primary care
  • Electronic health records


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