Thursday, October 08, 2015

Rheumatic syndromes remind me of pre-quark particle physics

This mornings board review included looking at the evolution of “inflammatory osteoarthritis” from 1970 to 2015. What was once described as an acute “inflammatory” (suddenly red and painful) form of osteoarthritis was later reformulated as “erosive osteoarthritis”, “psoriatic arthritis” and some vaguely described disorder that gradually morphs from osteoarthritis to rheumatoid arthritis — not to be confused with seronegative arthritis.

Bah. Humbug. It’s as bad as our mushy and obsolete classifications of neuropsychiatric disorders.

Unlike the neuropsychiatric disorders (autism, schizophrenia, etc) though, the rheumatic syndromes remind me of pre-quark partial physics. Lots and lots of fermions (neutrons, protons, etc etc) with mysterious distinctions; understanding the composing quarks brought a sort of sense to the world. Perhaps one day we’ll learn that seemingly distinct rheumatic syndromes are combinations of underlying simpler pathologies that in different contexts (microbiome, immune system etc) seem to make up different disorders...

Ok, not a great analogy. Just a thought. Classifications are powerful though, and that means they can be misleading — and harmful.

Update: On a quick literature scan it looks like psoriatic arthritis treatments (TNF inhibitors) haven’t worked that well for erosive osteoarthritis, which does suggest that inflammatory arthritis split is clinically meaningful...

No comments: