Objective: To determine whether dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (DCE-MRI) evaluated using semi-automatic image processing software can accurately assess synovial inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) knee joints.
Methods: In 17 RA patients undergoing knee surgery, the average grade of histological synovial inflammation was determined from four biopsies obtained during surgery. A preoperative series of T(1)-weighted dynamic fast low-angle shot (FLASH) MR images was obtained. Parameters characterizing contrast uptake dynamics, including the initial rate of enhancement (IRE), were generated by the software in three different areas: (I) the entire slice (Whole slice); (II) a manually outlined region of interest (ROI) drawn quickly around the joint, omitting large artefacts such as blood vessels (Quick ROI); and (III) a manually outlined ROI following the synovial capsule of the knee joint (Precise ROI). Intra- and inter-reader agreement was assessed using the intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC).
Results: The IRE from the Quick ROI and the Precise ROI revealed high correlations to the grade of histological inflammation (Spearman's correlation coefficient (rho) = 0.70, p = 0.001 and rho = 0.74, p = 0.001, respectively). Intra- and inter-reader ICCs were very high (0.93-1.00). No Whole slice parameters were correlated to histology.
Conclusion: DCE-MRI provides fast and accurate assessment of synovial inflammation in RA patients. Manual outlining of the joint to omit large artefacts is necessary.