Using ultrasonography to facilitate best practice in diagnosis and management of RA

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2009 Dec;5(12):698-706. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2009.227. Epub 2009 Nov 10.


The key to successful management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is early objective quantification of inflammation and ongoing precise, tailored therapy to ensure long term suppression of inflammatory disease activity. Musculoskeletal ultrasonography (MSKUS) has emerged as a tool with the potential to enhance disease assessment and management in this area. This includes applications in patients with undifferentiated arthropathy attending an early inflammatory arthritis clinic, in which the diagnosis of inflammatory disease may be confirmed or refuted at an early stage, and those with treated RA where accurate measurement of outcomes, such as response to therapy, structural damage and disease remission, are extremely important. This imaging modality is safe and portable, making it ideal for outpatient and inpatient settings, and can be used to assess many joints in multiple planes and to demonstrate changes in disease activity and structural damage over time. MSKUS is gaining popularity among rheumatologists, as increasing evidence supports the added value of a physician-performed ultrasonography assessment above traditional clinical, laboratory and radiographic measures, enabling greater confidence in diagnostic and management decisions. Although additional longitudinal data are required and further applications are likely to arise, MSKUS may well possess the necessary attributes to facilitate best practice in inflammatory arthritis management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnostic imaging*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / therapy
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Ultrasonography