New Ultrasound Modalities in Rheumatology

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Over the years, ultrasound (US) has accumulated important evidence supporting its relevant role for the assessment of inflammatory processes of different rheumatologic diseases, as well as in the follow-up in assessing the response to different therapeutic approaches. This has been possible because of the increase in training, competency, and knowledge, as well as the rapid progress in the US technologies.

Currently, some US machines can be equipped by sophisticated software modalities (i.e., 3-dimensional US, elastosonography, automated cardiovascular software, and fusion imaging) that can augment US traditional role as a safe, fast, and easy-to-perform modality and giving it new life and increased relevance in rheumatology. In this article, we evaluated the US developments, from conventional B-mode to more sophisticated technologies, and their potential clinical impact in the field of rheumatology.

Three-dimensional US can improve the accuracy of the assessment of bone erosions and the quantification of power Doppler because of its multiplanar view including coronal, axial and sagital view. Elastosonography is still looking for its role in rheumatology. Preliminary works induce us to consider it as a promise tool for the assessment of tendon pathology and skin of patients with connective tissue disorders. The automated method for the measurement of carotid intima-media thickness permits a rapid and accurate assessment. The preliminary published data showed that it is reliable, and valid compared to the traditional method; they also support the future of rheumatologists as the direct operators in evaluating the cardiovascular risk in daily practice. Fusion imaging increases the diagnostic power of US, displaying simultaneously in the monitor, the US image, and the corresponding computed tomography/magnetic resonance imaging image. However, there are no sufficient data supporting its application in daily rheumatologic practice.

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