The role of MRI in rheumatoid arthritis: research and clinical issues

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2009 Mar;21(2):95-101. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0b013e32832498f0.


Purpose of review: This review describes the important role of MRI in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), exploring recent reliability and validity work, as well as the current use of MRI in clinical trials and practice.

Recent findings: Both bone oedema and erosions on MRI have been confirmed as representing osteitis and cortical bone defects, respectively, adding to what was already known about the validity of contrast enhanced synovium representing synovitis. An increasing number of studies have used MRI as an outcome measure with interest moving from disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to biological therapies and a more technical focus on dynamic imaging. In addition, low-field extremity MRI has been developed as a well tolerated, comfortable and convenient method for imaging assessment in clinical practice.

Summary: This review has highlighted both recent research advances as well as the future potential for MRI in RA, with the aim that MRI will become part of standard measures for RA clinical trials. With respect to extremity imaging, further work is required to provide useful clinical algorithms.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / therapy
  • Biomedical Research / trends
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / statistics & numerical data
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / trends
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care


  • Antirheumatic Agents