Objective: To evaluate if magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is superior to conventional radiography for detection of erosions in the fifth metatarsophalangeal (MTP5) joint.
Methods: Within one year from the onset of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) (baseline), one and three years thereafter MRI and conventional radiographs of the MTP5 joint were performed in 23 patients.
Results: MRI revealed erosions in 10 patients at baseline, in 15 after one year and in 15 patients after 3 years. On conventional radiography, there were erosions in 10 patients at baseline, 16 after one year as well as after 3 years. The agreement between the two imaging methods was fair to good at baseline and after one and three years (kappa 0,65, 0,51 and 0,51 respectively). The number of patients with clinical evidence of synovitis decreased considerably over time although the number of patients with MRI-synovitis was unchanged and the number of patients with erosions increased.
Conclusions: MRI was not superior to conventional radiography in detecting erosions in MTP5 joints in patients with early RA. Most erosions developed during the first year of observation. Synovitis on MRI may be a marker of future development of erosions in the MTP5 joint.