Objective. To investigate the relationship between synovial vascularity and joint damage progression in each finger joint of patients with RA under low disease activity during treatment with biologic agents.
Methods. We studied 310 MCP and 310 PIP joints of 31 patients with active RA who were administered adalimumab (ADA) or tocilizumab (TCZ). Patients were examined with clinical and laboratory assessments. Power Doppler sonography was performed at baseline and at weeks 8, 20 and 40. Synovial vascularity was evaluated according to quantitative measurement. Hand and foot radiography was performed at baseline and at week 50.
Results. Composite scores of the DAS with 28 joints and the Simplified Disease Activity Index (SDAI) were significantly decreased from baseline to week 8, being sustained at a low level by biologic agents during the observational period. MCP and PIP joints with positive synovial vascularity after week 8 showed more subsequent joint damage progression than joints without synovial vascularity throughout the follow-up. The changes in radiographic progression in these joints were independent of the sum of synovial vascularity from baseline to week 40 or the occasional occurrence of positive synovial vascularity.
Conclusion. Smouldering inflammation reflected by positive synovial vascularity under low disease activity was linked to joint damage. The damage progressed irrespective of the severity of positive synovial vascularity. Even with a favourable overall therapeutic response, monitoring of synovial vascularity has the potential to provide useful joint information to tailor treatment strategies.
Trial registration. University Hospital Medical Information Network Clinical Trials Registry; http://www.umin.ac.jp/ctr/; UMIN000004476.