Immune-mediated conditions associated to Corona Virus Disease-19 (COVID-19) have been reported, including vasculitis, antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, myositis, and lupus. Emerging studies have reported the potential occurrence of reactive arthritis in patients previously infected with COVID-19. This systematic review summarised the current evidence on the occurrence of reactive arthritis in patients previously infected by COVID-19.
This study was conducted according to the 2020 PRISMA guidelines. All the clinical investigations describing the occurrence of reactive arthritis following COVID-19 were accessed. In September 2022, the following databases were accessed: PubMed, Web of Science, Google Scholar, Embase. The generalities of the study were extracted: author, year and journal of publication, country of the main author, study design, sample size, mean age, number of women, main results of the study. The following data on COVID-19 severity and management were retrieved: type of treatment, hospitalization regimes (inpatient or outpatient), admission to the intensive care unit, need of mechanical ventilation, pharmacological management. The following data on reactive arthritis were collected: time elapsed between COVID-19 infection to the onset of reactive arthritis symptoms (days), pharmacological management, type of arthritis (mono- or bilateral, mono- or polyarticular), extra-articular manifestations, presence of tenosynovitis or enthesitis, synovial examination at microscopic polarised light, imaging (radiography, magnetic resonance, sonography), clinical examination, laboratory findings.
Data from 27 case reports (54 patients) were retrieved, with a mean age of 49.8 ± 14.5 years. 54% (29 of 54 patients) were women. The mean time span between COVID-19 infection and the occurrence of reactive arthritis symptoms was 22.3 ± 10.7 days. Between studies diagnosis and management of reactive arthritis were heterogeneous. Symptoms resolved within few days in all studies considered. At last follow-up, all patients were minimally symptomatic or asymptomatic, and no additional therapy or attentions were required by any patient.
Poor evidence suggests that COVID-19 could target the musculoskeletal system causing reactive arthritis at its post infectious stage. COVID-19 can act as a causative agent or as a trigger for development of reactive arthritis even without presence of antibodies of rheumatological disorders. Treating physicians should have a high index of suspicion while treating post infectious COVID-19 patient with arthralgia.
Level IV, systematic review.