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J Rheumatol. 2012 Sep;39(9):1844-9. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.120107. Epub 2012 Jul 15.

Anterior chest wall involvement in early stages of spondyloarthritis: advanced diagnostic tools.

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  • 1Rheumatology Unit, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Padua, and Department of Radiology 1, Padua Hospital, Via Giustiniani 2, 35128 Padua, Italy.



Anterior chest wall (ACW) involvement is difficult to evaluate in patients with spondyloarthritis (SpA). Bone scan is sensitive to ACW involvement, while magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) detects early alterations in SpA. We compared the sensitivity and specificity of bone scans and MRI in assessing ACW in early SpA.


Out of 110 patients with early SpA attending the Outpatient Rheumatology Unit Clinic of Padua University from January 2008 to December 2010, the 40 complaining of pain and/or tenderness [60% with psoriatic arthritis (PsA), 12.5% with ankylosing spondylitis, and 27.5% with undifferentiated SpA] underwent bone scans and MRI.


At clinical examination, sternocostoclavicular joints were involved in 87.5% on the right, 77.5% on the left, and 35% on the sternum. Bone scan was positive in 100% and MRI in 62.5% of these patients. Early MRI signs (bone edema, synovial hyperemia) were observed in 27.5%, swelling in 5%, capsular structure thickness in 37.5%, erosions in 15%, bone irregularities in 15%, osteoproductive processes in 12.5%, and osteophytes in 5%. A higher prevalence of Cw6, Cw7, B35, and B38 was found in 15%, 48%, 28%, and 12%, respectively, of the patients with PsA who had bone scans.


Noted mainly in women, ACW involvement was frequent in early SpA. Both bone scans and MRI are useful in investigating ACW inflammation. Bone scans were found to have high sensitivity in revealing subclinical involvement, but a low specificity. MRI provides useful information for therapeutic decision making because it reveals the type and extent of the process. The significant associations of HLA-Cw6 and Cw7 with PsA could suggest that genetic factors influence ACW involvement.

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