The diagnostic accuracy of unenhanced MRI in the assessment of joint abnormalities in juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Eur Radiol. 2013 Jul;23(7):1998-2004. doi: 10.1007/s00330-013-2770-9. Epub 2013 Feb 1.


Objectives: To assess the diagnostic accuracy and reliability of MRI without contrast enhancement in the evaluation of JIA knee joint abnormalities.

Methods: JIA patients with clinically active knee involvement were prospectively studied using an 1-T open-bore magnet. MRI features were independently evaluated by two readers using the JAMRIS system. The first reading included unenhanced images, whereas complete image sets were available for the second reading.

Results: Imaging findings from 73 patients were analysed. Agreement between Gd-enhanced (+Gd) and Gd-unenhanced (-Gd) MRI scores of bone marrow changes, cartilage lesions and bone erosions was good concerning sensitivity, specificity, negative predictive value and positive predictive value. Inter-observer agreement was good for both -Gd and +Gd scores (ICC = 0.91-1.00, 0.93-1.00, respectively). Regarding the assessment of synovial hypertrophy, specificity of -Gd was high (0.97), but the sensitivity of unenhanced MRI was only 0.62. Inter-reader agreement for +Gd MRI was ICC = 0.94; however, omitting post-Gd acquisitions increased inter-reader variation (ICC = 0.86).

Conclusions: If Gd-enhanced MRI is the reference standard, omitting Gd contrast medium is irrelevant for the assessment of bone marrow changes, cartilage lesions and bone erosions as joint abnormalities in JIA. Omitting intravenous Gd in the MRI assessment of joints in JIA is inadvisable, because it decreases the reliability of detecting synovial disease.

Key points: • Magnetic resonance imaging is increasingly used to assess juvenile idiopathic arthritis. • Synovial hypertrophy, a marker of JIA activity, is well shown by MRI. • Omitting intravenous contrast medium decreases the reliability of synovial hypertrophy scores. • Bone marrow, cartilage and erosions can be reliably evaluated without contrast enhancement. • In the evaluation of JIA disease activity, unenhanced MRI is inadvisable.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arthritis, Juvenile / complications*
  • Arthritis, Juvenile / pathology
  • Bone Marrow / pathology
  • Bone and Bones / pathology
  • Cartilage / pathology
  • Child
  • Contrast Media*
  • Female
  • Gadolinium*
  • Humans
  • Joint Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Joint Diseases / pathology
  • Knee Joint / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Observer Variation
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Standards
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Contrast Media
  • Gadolinium