Ultrasonography in rheumatoid arthritis: a very promising method still needing more validation

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2004 May;16(3):223-30. doi: 10.1097/00002281-200405000-00010.


Purpose of review: Through recent technological advances, ultrasonography allows high-resolution visualization of inflammatory and destructive changes in the small superficial joints of hands and feet, and ultrasonography is increasingly used by rheumatologists for assessment of rheumatoid arthritis patients. It is, therefore, highly relevant to consider the validity of ultrasonographic measures of rheumatoid joint inflammation and damage.

Recent findings: Organized by type of validity, data on ultrasonography in rheumatoid arthritis are reviewed. Encouraging reports of high agreement of ultrasonographic findings between observers, with MRI and, in knee and hip joints, histopathologic assessments were recently published. New quantitative and semiquantitative evaluation methods have been suggested, and the first systematic follow-up studies suggest an ability of ultrasonography to monitor joint inflammation and damage. However, a number of essential issues are still largely unexplored, including interscanner variability, sensitivity to change, prognostic value, and value in the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Suggested areas of priority in research and development of ultrasonography in rheumatoid arthritis are outlined.

Summary: Ultrasonography is a very promising method in the assessment of rheumatoid arthritis joints, but still needs more validation before it can take up its expected role on a scientific basis as an important tool for diagnosis, monitoring, and prognostication of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and suspected rheumatoid arthritis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Ultrasonography / standards*
  • Ultrasonography / trends