Limited role of gadolinium to detect active sacroiliitis on MRI in juvenile spondyloarthritis

Skeletal Radiol. 2015 Nov;44(11):1637-46. doi: 10.1007/s00256-015-2211-8. Epub 2015 Jul 24.


Objective: The aim of this study is to determine the added diagnostic value of contrast-enhanced (CE) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) compared to routine non contrast-enhanced MRI to detect active sacroiliitis in clinically juvenile spondyloarthritis (JSpA).

Materials and methods: A total of 80 children clinically suspected for sacroiliitis prospectively underwent MRI of the sacroiliac (SI) joints. Axial and coronal T1-weighted (T1), Short-tau inversion recovery (STIR) and fat-saturated T1-weighted gadolinium-DTPA (Gd) contrast-enhanced (T1/Gd) sequences were obtained. The presence of bone marrow edema (BME), capsulitis, enthesitis, high intra-articular STIR signal, synovial enhancement and a global diagnostic impression of the MRI for diagnosis of sacroiliitis was recorded.

Results: STIR and T1/Gd sequences had 100% agreement for depiction of BME, capsulitis and enthesitis. High intra-articular STIR signal was seen in 18/80 (22.5%) patients, 15 (83%) of whom also showed synovial enhancement in the T1/Gd sequence. Sensitivity (SN) and specificity (SP) for a clinical diagnosis of JSpA were similar for high STIR signal (SN = 33%, SP = 85%) and T1/Gd synovial enhancement (SN = 36%, SP = 92%). Positive likelihood ratio (LR+) for JSpA was twice as high for synovial enhancement than high STIR signal (4.5 compared to 2.2). Global diagnostic impression was similar (STIR: SN = 55%, SP = 87%, LR + =4 .2; T1/Gd: SN = 55%, SP = 92%, LR + = 6.9).

Conclusion: MRI without contrast administration is sufficient to identify bone marrow edema, capsulitis and retroarticular enthesitis as features of active sacroiliitis in juvenile spondyloarthritis. In selected cases when high STIR signal in the joint is the only finding, gadolinium-enhanced images may help to confirm the presence of synovitis.

Keywords: Diagnostic value; Gadolinium; Juvenile spondyloarthritis; Magnetic resonance imaging; Sacroiliitis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Contrast Media*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Gadolinium DTPA*
  • Humans
  • Image Enhancement*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sacroiliac Joint / pathology
  • Sacroiliitis / complications
  • Sacroiliitis / pathology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spondylarthritis / complications
  • Spondylarthritis / pathology*


  • Contrast Media
  • Gadolinium DTPA