Imaging approaches for evaluating peripheral joint abnormalities in juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2012 Apr;41(5):698-711. doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2011.08.004. Epub 2011 Oct 28.


Objectives: To assess the usefulness of imaging studies for peripheral joint assessment in children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), based on a systematic literature review.

Methods: We used PubMed to identify relevant articles published between 2000 and 2011.

Results: Plain radiography is still the reference imaging study for monitoring joint destruction in patients with JIA, and the results correlate well with the clinical findings. Radiographs should be obtained routinely during follow-up and in therapeutic trials. Available scoring methods have been validated in children, but no recommendations are available on the intervals between radiographic assessments. Ultrasonography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can detect inflammatory changes that precede bone destruction. Ultrasonography features in JIA are still being studied. Ultrasonography can detect clinically silent synovitis, which has major implications for determining the JIA subtype. MRI is the only imaging study capable of showing bone marrow edema, which predicts joint destruction.

Conclusions: Although radiography remains the reference standard imaging study for assessing peripheral joint destruction in JIA, ultrasonography and MRI allow the early detection of predestructive changes, the presence of which affects treatment decisions. Much more work is needed to determine the optimal imaging protocols, the best interval between imaging evaluations during follow-up, and the therapeutic implications of imaging study findings.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Juvenile / diagnosis*
  • Child
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Joint Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Joints / pathology*
  • Male
  • Synovitis / diagnosis