How normal are the hands of normal controls? A study with dedicated magnetic resonance imaging

Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2006 Mar-Apr;24(2):134-41.


Objective: To investigate bone and soft tissue changes in the hands of normal subjects by MRI.

Methods: Twenty-three normal volunteers (16 women) agreed to be examined. MRI of the hand was performed with a dedicated-extremity 0.2 Tesla device using gradient echo, spin echo and STIR sequences. Joint space width was measured in 16 different locations of the hand. Bone lesions, including bone oedema, ankylosis, and erosions, as well as the presence of tenosynovitis were investigated.

Results: Reproducibility of measures of joint space width was relatively good with an intraclass correlation coefficient of 0.82 and 0.71 in the intra-observer and inter-observer evaluations, respectively. No age- or sex-related differences of joint space were observed. Reproducibility of the readings of bone oedema and tenosynovitis were optimal. Bone oedema and erosions were observed in 2/23 (8.7%) and in 6/23 (26.1%) subjects, respectively. Tenosynovitis of the extensor tendons was present in 1/23 subjects (4.3%), whereas tenosynovitis of the flexor tendons was seen in 4/23 (17.4%).

Conclusion: This study demonstrates that joint changes considered to be peculiar of arthritis can be found by MRI in a relevant percentage of healthy subjects. Our data suggest that a control group of healthy subjects should be included in MRI studies on the appearance of the wrist in disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ankylosis / diagnosis
  • Bone Diseases / diagnosis
  • Edema / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Hand Joints / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / instrumentation
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Reproducibility of Results