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Ann Rheum Dis. 2001 Aug;60(8):770-6.

Low field dedicated magnetic resonance imaging in untreated rheumatoid arthritis of recent onset.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine C, Section of Rheumatology, Odense University, Denmark. lindegaard@dadlnet.dk



To compare a low field dedicated extremity magnetic resonance imaging system (E-MRI) with x ray and clinical examination, in the detection of inflammation and erosive lesions in wrist and metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joints in newly diagnosed, untreated rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


Twenty five patients (disease duration < or =1 year) and three healthy controls entered the study. An x ray examination and MRI (before and after intravenous injection of a contrast agent) of the 2nd-5th MCP joints and the wrist was performed. The number of erosions on x ray examination and MRI was calculated, and synovitis in the MCP joints and wrists was graded semiquantitatively.


E-MRI detected 57 bone erosions, whereas only six erosions were disclosed by x ray examination (ratio 9.5:1). Synovial hypertrophy grades were significantly higher in RA joints with clinical signs of joint inflammation-that is, swelling and/or tenderness (median 3, 5th-95th centile 1-4) than without these clinical signs (median 2, 5th-95th centile 1-3), p < 0.001. 51% of the joints without clinical signs of synovitis showed synovial hypertrophy on E-MRI. There was a positive correlation between MRI scores of synovitis and the number of erosions detected by MRI in the MCP joints (Spearman r(s) = 0.31, p < 0.01). No healthy controls had erosions or synovitis on MRI.


Joint destruction starts very early in RA and E-MRI allows detailed evaluation of inflammatory and destructive changes in wrists and MCP joints in patients with incipient RA.

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