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OBJECTIVE: To determine whether rheumatologists working in Canada's largest academic rheumatology center (University Health Network/Mount Sinai Hospital) adhere to the 2002 American College of Rheumatology (ACR) guidelines for the management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). METHODS: Ten patients with RA seen between January 1 and December 30, 2005, were randomly selected from each rheumatologist. A standardized form was used to verify whether the following items were collected at each visit: (1) degree of joint pain, (2) duration of morning stiffness, (3) degree of fatigue, (4) number of tender/swollen joints, and (5) assessment of function. Items recommended for periodic assessment were also collected and included: (1) examination for joint damage, (2) erythrocyte sedimentation rate and/or C-reactive protein, and (3) radiographic assessment of joint damage (radiograph/magnetic resonance imaging). RESULTS: One hundred thirty charts and 313 total visits met inclusion criteria. No rheumatologist consistently assessed each ACR item. Of the recommended items, tender and swollen joint counts and pain were most commonly assessed (95%, 95%, and 69%, respectively). Functional assessment, morning stiffness, and fatigue were least commonly reported (48%, 46%, and 33%, respectively). Items recommended for periodic assessment were not regularly recorded. There was a trend for the recommended items to be reported more regularly for new patients, patients taking a disease modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD), and patients for whom a DMARD was added or increased in dosage. CONCLUSION: Rheumatologists follow many but not all of the recommendations included in the revised ACR guidelines. The reasons underlying the noncompliance to some of the recommendations are not fully understood. In order to improve the adoption of future clinical practice guidelines, the ACR may have to plan specific dissemination and implementation strategies and fund studies to formally assess the effect of guideline use on clinical outcomes.