We attempted to assess whether pannus volume measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used as an indicator of disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Eleven women (mean age 46 yr) with uncontrolled RA were studied for 1 yr. Pannus formation in both hands was quantified using MRI at the start of the study, and at 6 and 12 months thereafter. The volume of enhancing pannus (VEP) was compared with changes in the radiological scores, grip strength, joint tenderness counts, joint swelling counts, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and serum C-reactive protein (CRP). Patients were classified into three groups based on VEP changes between 0 and 12 months: unchanged (n = 2), decreased (n = 6) and increased (n = 3). VEP at 6 months and at 12 months differed significantly between the three groups. No statistically significant differences were found between the groups in radiographic scores, physical parameters or laboratory parameters despite the fact that some of these parameters changed in the direction indicated by the changes in VEP. VEP can be used as a new indicator to assess disease activity in individual RA patients and, using this parameter, treatment outcome can be assessed in fewer subjects than with traditional measures.