High-Resolution US of Rheumatologic Diseases

Radiographics. 2015 Nov-Dec;35(7):2026-48. doi: 10.1148/rg.2015140250.


For the past 15 years, high-resolution ultrasonography (US) is being routinely and increasingly used for initial evaluation and treatment follow-up of rheumatologic diseases. This imaging technique is performed by using high-frequency linear transducers and has proved to be a powerful diagnostic tool in evaluation of articular erosions, simple and complex joint and bursal effusions, tendon sheath effusions, and synovitis, with results comparable to those of magnetic resonance imaging, excluding detection of bone marrow edema. Crystal deposition diseases including gouty arthropathy and calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease (CPPD) have characteristic appearances at US, enabling differentiation between these two diseases and from inflammatory arthropathies. Enthesopathy, which frequently accompanies psoriatic and reactive arthritis, also has a characteristic appearance at high-resolution US, distinguishing these two entities from other inflammatory and metabolic arthropathies. The presence of Doppler signal in examined joints, bursae, and tendon sheaths indicates active synovitis. Microbubble echo contrast agents augment detection of tissue vascularity and may act in the future as a drug delivery vehicle. Frequently, joint, tendon sheath, and bursal fluid aspirations and therapeutic injections are performed under US guidance. The authors describe the high-resolution US technique including gray-scale, color or power Doppler, and contrast agent-enhanced US that is used in evaluation of rheumatologic diseases of the wrist and hand and the ankle and foot in their routine clinical practice. This article demonstrates imaging findings of normal joints, rheumatoid arthritis, gouty arthritis, CPPD, psoriatic and reactive arthritis, and osteoarthritis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Gouty / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthritis, Psoriatic / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Joints / diagnostic imaging*
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnostic imaging
  • Rheumatic Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Synovitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Tenosynovitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Color