Objective To describe long-term clinical and serological outcome in all systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) domains in SLE patients with hand arthralgia (HA) and joint ultrasound (JUS) inflammatory abnormalities, and to compare them with asymptomatic SLE patients with normal JUS. Methods SLE patients with HA who presented JUS inflammatory abnormalities ('cases') and SLE patients without HA who did not exhibit JUS abnormalities at baseline ('controls') were included. All SLE clinical and serological domain involvement data were collected. End follow-up clinical activity and damage scores (systemic lupus erythematosus disease activity index (SLEDAI), Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics/American College of Rheumatology (SLICC/ACR)) were recorded. JUS inflammatory abnormalities were defined based on the Proceedings of the Seventh International Consensus Conference on Outcome Measures in Rheumatology Clinical Trials (OMERACT-7) definitions. Statistical analyses were carried out to compare 'cases' and 'controls'. Results A total of 35 patients were recruited. The 'cases', n = 18/35, had a higher incidence of musculoskeletal involvement (arthralgia and/or arthritis) through the follow-up period (38.9% vs 0%, p = 0.008) and received more hydroxychloroquine (61.1% vs 25.0%, p = 0.034) and methotrexate (27.8% vs 0%, p = 0.046) compared to 'controls', n = 17/35. Other comparisons did not reveal any statistical differences. Conclusions We found SLE patients with arthralgia who presented JUS inflammatory abnormalities received more hydroxychloroquine and methotrexate, mainly due to persistent musculoskeletal involvement over time. JUS appears to be a useful technique for predicting worse musculoskeletal outcome in SLE patients.
Keywords: Systemic lupus erythematosus; joint ultrasound; musculoskeletal involvement.