Objectives: To investigate the additional value of T1 fat-saturated after gadolinium (T1/Gd) compared with T1 and short tau inversion recovery (STIR) sequence in detecting active lesions of the SI joints typical of axial SpA (axSpA) in a prospective cohort study, the SpondyloArthritis Caught Early (SPACE) cohort, and to assess its influence on final MRI diagnosis of the SI joint (MRI-SIJ) based on the Assessment of Spondyloarthritis International Society (ASAS) definition of active sacroiliitis.
Methods: Patients in the SPACE cohort received baseline and 3-month follow-up MRI-SIJ with coronal oblique T1, STIR and T1/Gd sequences. Bone marrow oedema (BME), capsulitis/enthesitis and synovitis and active sacroiliitis according to the ASAS definition were evaluated by three blinded readers.
Results: A total of 127 patients received an MRI-SIJ at baseline and 67 patients also received an MRI-SIJ at 3 months follow-up since the Gd protocol was added some months after the start of the SPACE project. Twenty-five of the 127 patients (19.7%) with a baseline MRI-SIJ and 14 of 67 patients (20.6%) with a follow-up MRI-SIJ presented BME on the STIR sequence sufficient to fulfill the ASAS definition for a positive MRI-SIJ. In eight patients, additional synovitis and/or capsulitis/enthesitis was observed; however, no additional BME was visualized on T1/Gd. One patient, without clinical diagnosis of axSpA, showed synovitis as an isolated finding.
Conclusion: Synovitis and capsulitis/enthesitis are detectable with the administration of Gd. However, they are always observed in the presence of BME. Therefore T1 and STIR sequence alone are sufficient in the MRI assessment that, among others, is used for diagnosing patients with early axSpA.
Keywords: MRI; gadolinium; sacroiliitis; spondyloarthritis.