Structural damage in rheumatoid arthritis: comparison between tendon damage evaluated by ultrasound and radiographic damage

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Objective. To compare structural damage assessed by conventional radiography and tendon damage assessed by musculoskeletal US (MSUS) at wrist and ankle in RA patients.

Methods. We evaluated 72 consecutive patients [56 (77.8%) females] with RA. The MSUS evaluation consisted in a B-mode examination of bilateral extensor carpi ulnaris and tibialis posterior tendons. Tendon damage was defined and scored according to OMERACT. A total score for the tendon damage score (TDS) was calculated by summing the grades for each tendon. For the radiographic evaluations we used the van der Heijde score; a total radiographic score (RTS) was calculated by summing a bone erosion score (ERS) and a joint space narrowing score (JSNS).

Results. We evaluated 288 tendons. The mean (S.D.) of TDS was 2.3 (1.8). Fifty-four (75%) patients presented tendon damage of at least one tendon. From all evaluated tendons, 134 (46.5%) had no tendon damage, 146 (50.7%) had grade 1 and 8 (2.8%) had grade 2 tendon damage. The mean (S.D.) for RTS was 91.4 (97), for ERS was 47.3 (61.9) and for JSNS was 44.1 (37.2). We found a significant correlation between disease duration and both TDS and RTS (r = 0.413 and r = 0.560, respectively; P < 0.0001). We found a good significant correlation between TDS and all variables of radiographic structural damage (RTS, r = 0.65; ERS, r = 0.637; JSNS, r = 0.618; P < 0.001).

Conclusion. The MSUS assessment of only four tendons can be an additional feasible method to assess structural damage in RA patients.

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