The future of radiosynoviorthesis: bright or bleak?

Q J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2022 Dec;66(4):345-351. doi: 10.23736/S1824-4785.22.03475-6. Epub 2022 Jun 16.


Radiosynoviorthesis (RSO) is a decades known, effective intra-articular nuclear medicine local therapy, with few rare side-effects, in which inflamed synovial membrane is treated by means of colloidal beta-emitters. There are major variations worldwide in terms of acceptance, frequency of use and approved indications for this procedure. Thus, reliable figures that reflect reality are only available for a few countries. A Europe-wide survey revealed that RSO is carried out most frequently in Germany, where RSO is the most common nuclear medicine therapy with about 70,000 joints treated per year. The main indications include synovitis due to rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia and pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVNS), and depending on national approvals, osteoarthritis. Despite the many indications, there are very few published scientific studies and therefore, RSO evidence is lacking. Reliable data on the clinical usage of RSO and demographics of RSO specialists are only available in Germany, thus we discuss the future challenges of RSO mainly from a German perspective. In the German healthcare system, RSO is performed primarily on an outpatient basis and plays only a minor role in the university setting. The necessary expertise for RSO is therefore lacking, for the most part, at university training centers. Currently, nearly more than three quarters of the German RSO experts are over fifty years old, illustrating a shortage of young talent. In the future, RSO providers from the non-university or private sector will have to cooperate with universities through networks and will have to intensify their cooperation with referring physicians, such as rheumatologist and orthopedic surgeons, and patients in order to maintain a timely and beneficial exchange of information. In networks of RSO experts, the participants must jointly develop and establish training concepts and facilities for future talents, elaborate on guidelines, if clinically useful expand the range of indications, initiate studies to generate further evidence and finally make the procedure more public. In addition, it is worthwhile to apply this process beyond human medicine to other fields, such as medical physics and veterinary medicine. If these points are implemented, the future of RSO will be bright, if it fails, it looks bleak.

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nuclear Medicine*
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Synovitis*
  • Treatment Outcome