Objective: To develop a feasible magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-based scoring system for sacroiliac joint inflammation in patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) that requires minimal scan time, does not require contrast enhancement, evaluates lesions separately at each articular surface, and limits the number of sacroiliac images that are scored.
Methods: A scoring method based on the assessment of increased signal denoting bone marrow edema on T2-weighted STIR sequences was used. MRI films were assessed blindly in random order at 2 sites by multiple readers. Intra- and interreader reliability was assessed by intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC); the 24-week response of patients with AS randomized to placebo:infliximab (3:8) was assessed by effect size and standardized response mean. The reliability and responsiveness of the scoring method were compared for STIR and gadolinium diethylenetriaminepentaacetic (Gd-DTPA)-enhanced MRI sequences.
Results: We scanned 11 patients with AS with clinically active disease and 11 additional patients randomized to the trial of infliximab therapy. ICC for total sacroiliac joint STIR score ranged from 0.90 to 0.98 (P < 0.00001) and interobserver ICC for combined readers from the 2 sites was 0.84 (P < 0.0001). ICC for change scores was lower for STIR (ICC 0.53) than for Gd-DTPA-enhanced sequences (ICC 0.79). Responsiveness was poor, although fusion was evident in one-third of patients who received treatment (placebo:infliximab) and inflammation scores were low.
Conclusion: The Spondyloarthritis Research Consortium of Canada MRI index is a feasible and reproducible index for measuring sacroiliac joint inflammation in patients with AS.