Ultrasonography and color Doppler of proximal gluteal enthesitis in juvenile idiopathic arthritis: a descriptive study

Pediatr Rheumatol Online J. 2011 Aug 11;9(1):22. doi: 10.1186/1546-0096-9-22.


Background: The presence of enthesitis (insertional inflammation) in patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is difficult to establish clinically and may influence classification and treatment of the disease. We used ultrasonography (US) and color Doppler (CD) imaging to detect enthesitis at the small and deep-seated proximal insertion of the gluteus medius fascia on the posterior iliac crest where clinical diagnosis is difficult. The findings in JIA patients were compared with those obtained in healthy controls and with the patients' MRI results.

Methods: Seventy-six proximal gluteus medius insertions were studied clinically (tenderness to palpation of the posterior iliac crest) and by US and CD (echogenicity, thickness, hyperemia) in 38 patients with JIA and in 38 healthy controls, respectively (median age 13 years, range 7-18 years). In addition, an additional MRI examination of the sacroiliac joints and iliac crests was performed in all patients.

Results: In patients with focal, palpable tenderness, US detected decreased echogenicity of the entheses in 53% of the iliac crests (bilateral in 37% and unilateral in 32%). US also revealed significantly thicker entheses in JIA patients compared to healthy controls (p < 0.003 left side, p < 0.001 right side). There was no significant difference in thickness between the left and right sides in individual subjects. Hyperemia was detected by CD in 37% (28/76) of the iliac crests and by contrast-enhanced MRI in 12% (6/50).

Conclusions: According to US, the gluteus medius insertion was thicker in JIA patients than in controls, and it was hypoechoic (enthesitis) in about half of the patients. These findings may represent chronic, inactive disease in some of the patients, because there was only limited Doppler flow and MRI contrast enhancement. The present study indicates that US can be useful as an adjunct to clinical examination for improved assessment of enthesitis in JIA. This may influence disease classification, ambition to treat, and choice of treatment regimen.