The purpose of this study was to assess the accuracy and performance of a new handheld ultrasound (HHUS) machine in comparison to a conventional cart-based sonographic machine in patients with inflammatory arthritis (IA). IA patients with at least one tender and swollen joint count were enrolled. US was performed on the clinically affected joints using a cart-based sonographic device (Samsung HS40) and a HHUS device (Butterfly iQ). One blinded reader scored all images for the presence of erosions, bony enlargement, synovial hypertrophy, joint effusion, bursitis, tenosynovitis, and enthesitis. Synovitis was graded (B mode and power Doppler (PD)) by the 4-level EULAR-OMERACT scale. To avoid bias by the blinded reader, we included 67 joints of two healthy volunteers in the evaluation. We calculated the overall concordance and the concordance by type of joint and pathological finding. We also measured the time required for the US examination per joint with both devices. Thirty-two patients (20 with RA, 10 with PsA, and one each with gout and SLE-associated arthritis) were included, and 186 joints were examined. The overall raw concordance in B mode was 97% (κappa 0.90, 95% CI (0.89, 0.94)). In B mode, no significant differences were found in relation to type of joint or pathological finding examined. The PD mode of the HHUS device did not detect any PD signal, whereas the cart-based device detected a PD signal in 61 joints (33%). The portable device did not offer any time savings compared to the cart-based device (47.0 versus 46.3 s). The HHUS device was accurate in the assessment of structural damage and inflammation in patients with IA, but only in the B mode. Significant improvements are still needed for HHUS to reliably demonstrate blood flow detection in PD mode.
Keywords: handheld ultrasound device; inflammatory arthritis; medical ultrasound; musculoskeletal ultrasound.