Joint anatomy in axial spondyloarthritis: strong associations between sacroiliac joint form variation and symptomatic disease

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2021 Apr 5;keab318. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keab318. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: The aim of this investigation was to determine the prevalence of variant sacroiliac joint forms in symptomatic patients with mechanical joint disease (MJD) and axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA) compared with control patients.

Method: A total of 973 patients were included in this cross-sectional study (95 axSpA; 61 MJD; 817 controls); clinical diagnosis, age and gender were noted. An established scoring system was used to classify joint forms on computed tomography scans of the pelvis. Frequencies of joint forms were compared between groups (axial spondyloarthritis; mechanical joint disease; controls).

Results: Patients with MJD exhibited the highest proportion of atypical joints (80.3% in MJD vs 44.1% in axSpA and 37.5% in controls; p< 0.001). Overall, females had a significantly higher proportion of atypical joints than men (65.0% vs 17.8%; p< 0.001); proportions of atypical joints were significantly higher in males with symptomatic joint disease than in male controls: 32.2% in axSpA, 55.0% in MJD, 13.9% in controls; p≤ 0.001. Two specific joint forms were significantly more prevalent in symptomatic patients than in controls: the iliosacral complex (16.2% vs 4.2%; p< 0.001) and the crescent-shaped ilium (9.1% vs 2.8%; p< 0.05).

Conclusions: Our data demonstrate a strong association between atypical joint forms and symptomatic joint disease.

Keywords: Ankylosing spondylitis; Diagnostic imaging; Sacroiliitis; computed tomography.