OBJECTIVES--To examine the contents of intraosseous cysts in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) through the signal intensity characteristics on gadolinium-DTPA (Gd-DTPA) enhanced magnetic resonance imaging. METHODS--The hand or foot joints of nine patients with the cystic form of RA (where the initial radiological abnormality consisted of intraosseous cysts without erosions) were imaged before and after intravenous administration of Gd-DTPA. A 0.6 unit, T1 weighted spin echo and T2* weighted gradient echo were used to obtain images in at least two perpendicular planes. RESULTS--Most cysts showed a low signal intensity on the non-enhanced T1 weighted (spin echo) images and a high signal intensity on the T2* weighted (gradient echo) images, consistent with a fluid content. No cyst showed an enhancement of signal intensity on the T1 weighted images after intravenous administration of Gd-DTPA, whereas synovium hyperplasia at the site of bony erosions did show an increased signal intensity after Gd-DTPA. Magnetic resonance imaging detected more cysts (as small as 2 mm) than plain films, and the cysts were located truly intraosseously. In six patients no other joint abnormalities were identified by magnetic resonance imaging; the three other patients also showed, after Gd-DTPA administration, an enhanced synovium at the site of bony erosions. CONCLUSIONS--It is suggested that intraosseous bone cysts in patients with RA do not contain hyperaemic synovial proliferation. The bone cysts in patients with the cystic form of RA may be the only joint abnormality.
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