Effect of Magnetic Resonance Imaging vs Conventional Treat-to-Target Strategies on Disease Activity Remission and Radiographic Progression in Rheumatoid Arthritis: The IMAGINE-RA Randomized Clinical Trial

JAMA. 2019 Feb 5;321(5):461-472. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.21362.


Importance: Whether using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to guide treatment in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) improves disease activity and slows joint damage progression is unknown.

Objective: To determine whether an MRI-guided treat-to-target strategy vs a conventional clinical treat-to-target strategy improves outcomes in patients with RA in clinical remission.

Design, setting, and participants: Two-year, randomized, multicenter trial conducted at 9 hospitals in Denmark. Two hundred patients with RA in clinical remission (disease activity score in 28 joints-C-reactive protein [DAS28-CRP] <3.2 and no swollen joints) were enrolled between April 2012 and June 2015. The final follow-up visit was April 2017.

Interventions: Patients were randomly allocated (1:1) to an MRI-guided vs a conventional treat-to-target strategy. In the MRI-guided group, the treatment goal was absence of MRI bone marrow edema combined with clinical remission, defined as DAS28-CRP of 3.2 or less and no swollen joints. In the conventional group, the treatment goal was clinical remission.

Main outcomes and measures: Co-primary outcomes were proportions of patients achieving DAS28-CRP remission (DAS28-CRP <2.6) and with no radiographic progression (no increase in total van der Heijde-modified Sharp score) at 24 months. Significance testing for the primary outcome was based on 1-sided testing. Secondary outcomes were clinical and MRI measures of disease activity, physical function, and quality of life.

Results: Of 200 patients randomized (133 women [67%]; mean [SD] age, 61.6 [10.5] years; median baseline DAS28-CRP, 1.9 [interquartile range, 1.7-2.2]; van der Heijde-modified Sharp score, 18.0 [interquartile range, 7.0-42.5]), 76 patients (76%) in the MRI-guided group and 95 (95%) in the conventional group completed the study. Of these, 64 (85%) vs 83 (88%), respectively, reached the primary clinical end point (risk difference, -4.8% [1-sided 95% CI, -13.6% to + ∞; 1-sided P = .19]) and 49 (66%) vs 58 (62%), respectively, reached the primary radiographic end point (risk difference, 4.7% [1-sided 95% CI, -7.0% to + ∞; 1-sided P = .25). Of 10 key secondary end points, 8 were null and 2 showed statistically significant benefit for the MRI treat-to-target group. Seventeen patients (17%) in the MRI-guided treat-to-target group and 6 patients (6%) in the conventional treat-to-target group experienced serious adverse events.

Conclusions and relevance: Among patients with RA in clinical remission, an MRI-guided treat-to-target strategy compared with a conventional treat-to-target strategy did not result in improved disease activity remission rates or reduce radiographic progression. These findings do not support the use of an MRI-guided strategy for treating patients with RA.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01656278.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnostic imaging*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Bone Marrow / diagnostic imaging*
  • Bone Marrow / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Edema / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Joints / diagnostic imaging*
  • Joints / drug effects
  • Joints / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Radiography
  • Remission Induction


  • Antirheumatic Agents

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01656278