Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect anyone at any age, and may cause significant pain and disability.
59% rise in hospitalisations for people with rheumatoid arthritis from 2005–06 to 2014–15
2% of Australians reported having rheumatoid arthritis in 2014–15. That’s approximately 407,900 people
18% of people with rheumatoid arthritis reported poor health, compared with 3.9% of people without the condition
People with rheumatoid arthritis may receive hospital care when their symptoms are not manageable through primary health care interventions. Hospitalisations for rheumatoid arthritis involve interventions to restore functional capacity, and relieve pain.
Data from the AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD) show that, in 2014–15:
Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database (Data table).
From 2005–06 to 2014–15, age standardised hospitalisation rates for rheumatoid arthritis increased from 29 per 100,000 to 46 per 100,000 (Figure 2). Over the period, the age standardised hospitalisation rate for females was more than twice that of males.
Note: Rates are age-standardised to the Australian population as at 30 June 2001.
Between 2005–06 and 2014–15, there was a rise of over 200% for administering drug treatments (administration of pharmacotherapy) for people hospitalised for rheumatoid arthritis. In comparison, rates for other common procedures for rheumatoid arthritis decreased (–8% for administration of blood and blood products and –2% for allied health interventions and –12% for knee replacement).
In 2014–15, a total of 19,037 procedures and other interventions were provided for people with the principal diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. There were more procedures than hospitalisations for rheumatoid arthritis as one person may have more than one procedure performed during their hospital stay, e.g. knee replacement and anaesthetic. Most of the procedures (49%) were for administering drug treatments, followed by allied health interventions such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy or dietetics (17%).
It should be noted that the allied health interventions are only those provided whilst the person was an admitted patient in a hospital. Allied health interventions are frequently recommended for people with rheumatoid arthritis and can be provided as outpatient services or in the primary health care setting , which are not captured in these hospital morbidity data.
The Australian Classification of Health Interventions (ACHI) codes 8th edition  were used to record hospital procedures for patients admitted to hospital with a principal diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis in 2014–15.
The ACHI codes for pharmacotherapy were those which came under the block number 1920; for allied health interventions were those that came under the block number 1916; for administration of blood and blood products were those that came under block number 1893; and for knee replacement block numbers 1518 and 1519.
'Other' includes those procedures which individually amount to less than 2% of all procedures for rheumatoid arthritis
Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.
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