The Essex Rheumatology Trust
Advice & Patient Services


The Multi-Disciplinary Musculoskeletal Service

Conditions treated in rheumatology

Inflammatory arthritis such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Reactive arthrtis
Osteoporosis and fracture prevention
Gout & other crystal arthritis
Polymyalgia rheumatica & giant cell arthritis
Other connective tissues diseases such as lupus & vasculitis
Bone diseases such as Paget’s disease, osteomalacia
Childhood arthritis
Back pain
Regional pain such as shoulder pain, knee pain, foot pain
Soft tissue problems such as bursitis, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome

When should you see a rheumatologist?

If musculoskeletal pains are not severe or disabling and last just a few days, it makes sense to give the problem a reasonable chance to be resolved. But sometimes, pain in the joints, muscles or bones is severe or persists for more than a few days. At that point, you should see your physician.

Many types of rheumatic diseases are not easily identified in the early stages. Rheumatologists are specially trained to do the detective work necessary to discover the cause of swelling and pain. It’s important to determine a correct diagnosis early so that appropriate treatment can begin early.

Some musculoskeletal disorders respond best to treatment in the early stages of the disease.Because some rheumatic diseases are complex, one visit to a rheumatologist may not be enough to determine a diagnosis and course of treatment.

These diseases often change or evolve over time. Rheumatologists work closely with patients to identify the problem and design an individualized treatment program.

Rheumatology referrals

Referrals to the rheumatology service will primarily come from your General Practitioner, who will need to undertake an assessment to decide whether referral to a rehumatologist is the most appropriate course of action in each individual case. Referrals may also be made by Physiotherapists, Fracture Clinics, Orthopaedics, Pain Management and many other medical services.

The team

The rheumatology team comprises of Consultant Rheumatologists, Doctors in specialist training (specialist registrars), Nurse Specialists, Physiotherapists and other health professionals. The team provides care based on multi-disciplinary holistic assessments of the individual care needs of people presenting with inflammatory and non inflammatory joint, muscle and bone diseases.

Diagnostic service

The department may also provide Musculoskeletal Ultrasonography and DEXA Scanning for diagnosis and assessment of various rheumatic conditions and Osteoporosis.

Rheumatology clinics

Inflammatory arthritis clinics for conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Reactive arthritis etc

Nurse specialist clinics

For assessment of response and monitoring of therapy for these illnesses.

Musculoskeletal clinics

Led by physiotherapists and supported by rheumatologists for evaluating back pain, regional pain, soft tissue conditions.

Musculoskeletal triage

Rheumatologists have pioneered the use of protocol based triage and ‘joined up working for the assessment of various musculoskeletal conditions working on the motto’ the appropriate health professional for the appropriate patient’.
Rheumatologists .

Work in close collaboration with senior Physiotherapists, Pain Management, Podiatry & other health professionals to offer the musculoskeletal clinics for patients presenting with non inflammatory musculoskeletal symptoms.

Osteoporosis & fracture prevention clinics

For evaluation of fractures due to osteoporosis and for secondary fracture prevention. Specialist clinics that may be available:

Polymyalgia rheumatica & giant cell (temporal) arteritis
Lupus clinic for Connective Tissue Diseases such as Lupus , vasculitis
Paediatric Rheumatology for children suffering with arthritis
Combined pain clinic with the pain team
Combined Foot/hand clinics
Ultrasonography clinics

The function of these clinics is to:

Multi-disciplinary clinics

These provide opportunity for additional input in the care of various complex rheumatological conditions, using the full range of expertise available within the hospital.

Musculoskeletal ultrasonography

This is an emerging technology which allows radiation-free evaluation of patients with various musculoskeletal problems.

For example it can detect early inflammation and damage from rheumatoid arthritis, small muscle (rotator cuff) tears in the shoulder and the degree of tendon inflammation in heel pain as well as presence of bursitis and joint fluid.

Injections can also be undertaken with greater accuracacy using US assistance.
Commonly used drug treatments. The usual therapy for rheumatoid arthritis other inflammatory arthritis, connective tissue diseases such as lupus and vasculitis involves disease modifying agents such as:

Methotrexate, orally or by injections
Other immunosuppressive agents
Steroid treatment for many of the rheumatic conditions which again can be given orally, intra-muscular or Intravenous routes.
Biologic agents

Patients with severe diseases may be treated with bioiologic therapy which includes, Anti Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) agents such as:

Rituximab. – a B cell depleting agent
Abatacept - Inhibitor of T cell co-stimulation

Intravenous day-stay treatments

The service also involves the administration of intravenous agents such as Pamidronate infusions, Iloprost, intravenous immunoglobulins.

Joint injections

Many patients with non inflammatory soft tissue conditions are treated with injections to the joints, tendon sheaths, and inflamed bursae.

Special day procedures

Special day procedures are also performed such as epidural injections as well as facet joint injections.

Patient education

Patient education is promoted through information leaflets produced by the Arthritis Research Campaign (ARC) as well information provided by different web sites such as the ARC and NRAS.

Telephone helpline

Patients are provided support through the use of a dedicated helpline which can be accessed by all patients attending the Rheumatology Services. This provides an urgent response mechanism to any emergency that the patients may have.

Departments also runs telephone clinics for patients who have difficulty in attending the Hospital.

Research & Development and Teaching

R & D and teaching Is undertaken in most rheumatology units. This includes clinical audits of performance measures to ensure good patient outcomes.