Grading of chronic synovitis--a histopathological grading system for molecular and diagnostic pathology

Pathol Res Pract. 2002;198(5):317-25. doi: 10.1078/0344-0338-5710261.


The following is a proposition for a simple histopathological classification system to measure inflammation in synovial tissue. This synovitis-score is employed in conventionally stained routine sections, and is applicable to every kind of synovitis, irrespective of etiology and including the following relevant morphological alterations. First: hyperplasia/enlargement of synovial lining cell layer. Second: activation of resident cells/synovial stroma. Third: inflammatory infiltration. All defined histopathological qualities are graded from absent (0), slight (1) and moderate (2) to strong (3), with summaries ranging from 0 to 9. 0 to 1 corresponds to no synovitis (inflammatory grade = 0), 2 to 3 to a slight synovitis (inflammatory grade 1), 4 to 6 to a moderate synovitis (inflammatory grade 2), and 7 to 9 to a strong synovitis (inflammatory grade 3). Using this score, we analyzed 308 random specimens of synovial tissue from degenerative (osteoarthritis (OA)) and inflammatory joint diseases - reactive arthritis (ReA), psoriasis arthritis (PA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) - as well as synovial tissue from healthy individuals. The mean grade given to synovitis of RA turned out to be significantly higher than the mean grade of OA (p < 0.0005) and of healthy controls (p < 0.0005). On the contrary, no significant differences could be found between the mean grades of synovitis scores from patients with RA and those with PA and ReA. Another comparison between RA-synovitis types I and II according to the Stiehl classification resulted in type I (p < 0.0005), showing significantly higher values of inflammatory infiltration, and type II (p = 0.037), showing significantly higher values of stroma activation. Since in OA, synovitis is regarded as a result of degenerative cartilage destruction whereas in inflammatory joint diseases (RA, PA, ReA), synovitis is regarded to be the cause of cartilage destruction, it can be concluded that scores with considerable high values indicate the pathogenetic potential of synovitis and that the inflammatory score may be helpful in estimating the destructive potential of synovitis at the same time. Furthermore, the comparison of the score data with the Stiehl RA-synovitis types shows that the score enables us to discriminate the morphological peculiarities of the synovitis types. In experimental pathology, it could provide standardized information on molecular synovial tissue analyses where a correlation of molecular with morphological data is essential. In diagnostic pathology, this synovitis score (in combination with other typing systems) could provide basic and standardized information concerning the degree of inflammatory alterations in synovial tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis / complications
  • Arthritis / pathology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Observer Variation
  • Pathology, Clinical / methods*
  • Prohibitins
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Synovitis / classification
  • Synovitis / etiology
  • Synovitis / pathology*