Radiologic diagnosis and pathology of the spondyloarthropathies

Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 1998 Nov;24(4):697-735. doi: 10.1016/s0889-857x(05)70038-7.


Five different subtypes of spondyloarthropathy (SpA) are now recognized. Clinical and radiologic involvement of the sacroiliac joint is an outstanding feature of the SpA, especially ankylosing spondylitis (AS). In this partly debilitating form of SpA a unique type of inflammatory axial involvement is observed which is characterized by inflammation and new bone formation at different spinal sites. In longstanding disease sacroiliitis, spondylitis and spondylodiscitis are easily recognized by conventional radiography and even better by computed tomography--especially when bony changes have already taken place. The advantage of dynamic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is to visualize morphologic changes and inflammation at the same time. This facilitates detection of sacroiliitis and spondylitis/spondylodiscitis at early time points. Hopefully, this will lead to other forms of therapy to prevent ankylosis of the spine. The origin of the granulation tissue infiltrating cartilage and bone in AS might be the synovium, the subchondrium or the bone marrow itself. T cells and macrophages seem to play an important role in this inflammatory process in which TNF-alpha is present in severe cases. The mechanisms responsible for the increased bone formation observed in the course of AS are unknown.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Joint Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Joint Diseases / pathology
  • Radiography
  • Sacroiliac Joint / pathology*
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / diagnostic imaging*
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / pathology