MRI for the assessment and monitoring of RA--what can it tell us?

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2011 Mar;7(3):185-9. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2010.172. Epub 2010 Oct 19.


The past 15 years has seen an exponential rise in the use of MRI for the assessment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In this Perspectives article, we review the current and potential future role of MRI in the diagnosis, prognosis and monitoring of RA. We also review the impact of MRI research on the understanding of disease mechanisms. In our view, the pivotal role of synovitis in RA and its predilection for sonographically accessible joints makes it likely that MRI will be used diagnostically in joints that are inaccessible to ultrasonography or where the differential diagnosis is unclear. Additionally, MRI will probably assume an even more prominent role in clinical trials where the aim of therapy is the complete ablation of synovitis. Given the ever-increasing sophistication of MRI, we anticipate that it will continue to be a key research tool in the coming years.

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Joints / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / trends*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Prognosis
  • Synovitis / diagnosis
  • Synovitis / pathology