Clinical and radiological evaluation of sacroiliac joints compared with ultrasound examination in early spondyloarthritis

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Objective. To compare clinical and X-ray examinations with US findings of SI joints (SIJ) in early SpA patients.

Methods. Twenty-three early SpA patients, diagnosed according to Assessment of SpondyloArthritis international Society criteria, were investigated clinically [sacral sulcus tenderness, BASMI, BASFI, BASDAI, pain and fatigue visual analogue scale (VAS), morning stiffness and sleep disturbance], with SIJ X-rays (New York score) and with My Lab70 US 7–10 MHz US (Esaote, Genoa, Italy), evaluating the width of the SIJ capsule and posterior sacroiliac (PSL) and sacrotuberosus (STL) ligament thickness and comparing the results with 23 healthy controls.

Results. SIJ width [right 2.2 (0.6) and left 2.3 (0.7) in SpA vs 1.6 (0.1) and 1.7 (0.2) in healthy controls, respectively, expressed as mean (S.D.)] and STL thickness [right 3.9 (1.3) and left 3.4 (1.0) vs 1.8 (0.1) and 1.8 (0.1), respectively, expressed as mean (S.D.)] were higher in SpA patients than in controls (P < 0.001 and P < 0.05, respectively). PSL thickness was similar in patients and controls. Only STL thickness was higher when SIJ was tender at clinical examination (P < 0.01) and correlated with pain VAS (P < 0.001) and BASFI (P < 0.05). Furthermore, SIJ US results were unrelated to X-ray findings (similar when X-ray sacroiliitis was present and not).

Conclusion. Our exploratory study suggested that in early SpA patients US might be a promising method, complementary to other imaging techniques, to study articular and soft tissue periarticular involvement of SIJ, independent of clinical and X-ray examination.

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