Rheumatic musculoskeletal disease (RMD) patients when family planning must consider fertility, disease activity and management from pre-conception to lactation. We have developed, in conjunction with the National Maternity Hospital, Holles St., a dedicated Rheumatology Reproductive service for women with RMD. This service includes a comprehensive multidisciplinary team including a rheumatologist and rheumatology nurse specialist, obstetric and midwifery, maternal medicine, anaesthesia and pharmacy. We identify patients’ emotional and healthcare needs, provide expert advice and aim to achieve maintenance of good disease control and positive reproductive outcomes. To date, ninety-eight women (mean age (range) = 35 years (19-48)) have been managed. The majority of patients (66%) had inflammatory arthritis and a minority connective tissue disease, vasculitis or other diagnosis. Following analysis of these data and literature review we established an evidence-based care pathway for women with RMD. In conclusion, we describe the first evidence-based reproductive care pathway for women with rheumatic musculoskeletal diseases RMDs in a unique rheumatology reproductive health service, RRHS.
The joints of patients with inflammatory arthritis (IA) show a complex microenvironment of neoangiogenesis, immune cell and fibroblast activation leading to inflammation and joint destruction. T cells play a key role in the pathogenesis of both Rheumatoid Arthritis and Psoriatic arthritis, with differential T cell populations associated with both diseases. It has now emerged that T cell subsets can exhibit functional plasticity, particularly, making it difficult to identify discrete T cell subsets on the basis of their cytokine production. Th17 cells appear to be particularly unstable under inflammatory conditions and can become so-called ex-Th17 cells or nonclassical Th1 cells, which start to produce IFN-γ with the eventual loss of IL-17 expression. Interestingly, we have shown enrichment of polyfunctional Th1, Th17 and Ex-Th17 cells in the periphery and synovial fluid of patients with RA and PsA. In addition, the frequency of polyfunctional T cells are associated with disease activity and response to therapy, suggesting they play a key pathogenic role in disease. Regulatory T cells (Tregs) represent an important peripheral tolerance mechanism that serves to prevent autoimmunity, but fails to constrain inflammation in autoimmune diseases such as RA and PsA. Several studies examining Treg phenotype have reported a decrease in the frequency in peripheral blood of patients with RA/PsA compared with healthy control (HCs), however, studies have also demonstrated enrichment of Tregs at the site of inflammation. However, they have reduced suppressive function thus allowing pathogenic polyfunctional CD161+ cells to further potentiate inflammation. In this study, we investigated the regulation of effector T cells taken from the RA SF by Tregs. The reduced suppression was in part mediated by the CD161+ Th cells, which exhibited enhanced pathogenicity which were resistant to Treg suppression.
In Rheumatology Reproductive Medicine clinic, RA and PsA patients wishing to achieve pregnancy are assessed when they present with active arthritis and intervention is designed to induce remission before conception. Patients are then followed and closely monitored during pregnancy and post-partum to assess disease activity and possible flare. Studies have shown increased frequency and function of Treg cells that are protective in RA patients who are pregnant, however little is known about polyfunctional T cells.
The present study will investigate effector T cells polyfunctionality and Treg cell function in patients with inflammatory arthritis who are pregnant in (i) remission; (ii) during disease flare, if it occurs; and (iii) post-partum.