Microscopic measurement of inflammation in synovial tissue may be important in studies of clinical status, prognosis and response to treatment. The aim of this study was to compare quantitative microscopic analysis of inflammation with a semiquantitative grading system in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) synovial membrane. Knee synovial membrane samples from 16 patients with RA, including paired samples taken before and after treatment in nine patients, were immunostained with anti-CD68 and anti-CD3 monoclonal antibodies using standard techniques. The intensity of macrophage and T-lymphocyte infiltration was measured both by quantitative and semiquantitative techniques, and the results were compared. In a cross-sectional comparison, both methods correlated significantly for lining layer macrophage infiltration, as well as sublining layer macrophage and T-cell infiltration. However, in some patients demonstrating a clinical response to treatment, semiquantitative analysis lacked sensitivity to biologically relevant changes in mononuclear cell infiltration. These observations have important implications for future studies of therapeutic modalities.