Objective: To evaluate high-resolution multi-pinhole single photon emission computed tomography (MPH-SPECT) for the detection of bony alterations in early rheumatoid arthritis (ERA), early osteoarthritis (EOA) of the fingers and healthy controls.
Methods: The clinically dominant hands of 27 patients (13 ERA, nine EOA, five healthy controls) were examined by MPH-SPECT and bone scintigraphy. Additionally, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed in the ERA patients. Number of affected joints, localisation, pattern of tracer distribution and joint involvement were scored. Quantitative analysis was achieved by measurement of the region of interest (ROI) in all patients. The MPH-SPECT and MR images were fused in the ERA group.
Results: Bone scintigraphy detected fewer joints (26 joints,13/22 patients) with increased tracer uptake than did MPH-SPECT (80 joints, 21/22 patients). Bone scintigraphy did not show recognisable uptake patterns in any group of patients. With MPH-SPECT central tracer distribution was typical in ERA (10/13 patients, EOA 2/9). In contrast, an eccentric pattern was found predominantly in EOA (7/9, ERA 2/13). Normalised counts were 4.5 in unaffected joints and up to 222.7 in affected joints. The mean uptake values in affected joints were moderately higher in the EOA patients (78.75, and 62.16 in ERA). The mean tracer uptake in affected joints was approximately three-times higher than in unaffected joints in both groups (ERA 3.64-times higher, EOA 3.58). Correlation with MR images revealed that bone marrow oedema and erosions matched pathological tracer accumulation of MPH-SPECT in 11/13. MPH-SPECT demonstrated increased activity in 2/13 patients with normal bone marrow signal intensity and synovitis seen on MR images.
Conclusion: MPH-SPECT is sensitive to early changes in ERA and EOA and permits them to be distinguished by their patterns of uptake.