Rapid musculoskeletal ultrasound for painful episodes in adult haemophilia patients

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Summary.Little objective information exists about musculoskeletal bleeding patterns in haemophilic arthropathy. Bleeding is assumed to be the cause of painful joints or muscles. Clotting factor treatment is provided empirically, but often does not alleviate pain. We hypothesized that perception of pain aetiology is unreliable, and introduced point-of-care high-resolution musculoskeletal ultrasound (MSKUS) to differentiate intra-articular bleeds vs. joint inflammation, and intra-muscle bleeds vs. other regional pain syndromes. To assess painful musculoskeletal episodes in adult haemophiliacs, we used rapid MSKUS, employing grey scale and power Doppler examination. Forty episodes in 30 adult haemophiliacs were evaluated. Thirty three of the 40 episodes were patient-reported as ‘bleeding’, five as ‘arthritis-type’ pain and two as ‘undecided’. Of the 33 bleeding reports, only 12 were confirmed by MSKUS; the other episodes revealed other pathology. In contrast, three of five perceived arthritis flares were reclassified as bleeds. Similarly, physician assessment was incorrect in 18 of 40 instances. Swelling and warmth were present in approximately half of confirmed bleeding and non-bleeding episodes, and therefore not useful clinically. Few of the painful episodes were symptom controlled at the time of MSKUS. Management changed based on objective imaging findings in >70% of episodes, which resulted in symptom improvement >60% of the time. Significant discrepancies exist between MSKUS findings and patient/physician-perceived pain classification as bleeding or other musculoskeletal symptoms. Current practice of prescribing clotting factor or conservative measures based on pain perception seems inadequate and suggests that point-of-care imaging should be included into modern haemophilia care.

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