Ultrasonographic evaluation of entheses in patients with spondyloarthritis: a systematic literature review

Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2014 Nov-Dec;32(6):969-78. Epub 2014 Dec 9.


Objectives: Enthesitis represents a characteristic features of spondyloarthritis (SpA) and, in the context of the early management of the disease, its reliable assessment has emerged as a central issue. Musculoskeletal ultrasonography (US) has proven to be of value in the assessment of peripheral entheses. Our aim was to systematically review the literature from 2010 to 2013 in order to summarise the evidence on the evaluation of entheses by US in patients with diagnosed or suspected SpA.

Methods: PubMed and Embase were searched developing a search strategy based on terms related to SpA and US. The target population were patients with SpA or suspected SpA, the intervention was entheseal US, the outcomes were the prevalence of US abnormalities, the reliability, the diagnostic accuracy, the sensitivity to change. The possible comparators were clinical evaluation and other imaging techniques. Cohort studies (cross-sectional or longitudinal), case-control studies, diagnostic accuracy studies, systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses were eligible for inclusion.

Results: Out of 3368 retrieved references, 34 papers were finally included. 22 of which reported information on the prevalence of US findings, yielding highly variable results. US was sufficiently reliable, as reported in 6 papers. A minority of studies reported data on sensitivity to change, which was good, and on the application of US for differential diagnosis and diagnosis of SpA, thus demonstrating the value of US also in this context.

Conclusions: US confirms its validity and reliability in the assessment of entheseal involvement in patients with SpA. Further application in the help of diagnosis will be provided by future research.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Joints / diagnostic imaging*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Spine / diagnostic imaging*
  • Spondylarthritis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography