The histopathological characteristic of ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is the presence of chronic enthesitis. Our aim was to develop a clinical measurement of the severity of tenderness over entheses. The scoring system was based on the patients' response to palpation over entheses easily accessible to examination. The enthesis index (EI) correlated with pain (r = 0.67, p less than 0.01) and stiffness (r = 0.46, p less than 0.05) scores. A single, blind, crossover study was conducted to determine the sensitivity of the index to change in clinical state associated with non-steroidal antirheumatic drug therapy and to record the interobserver variability. The index showed significantly lower scores after one week's drug treatment (p less than 0.05). The EI is a convenient, non-invasive measure of disease severity in patients with AS. Potential applications include the assessment of enthesitis in other polyarthritides and a means of distinguishing clinically between severity of enthesitis and synovitis in different types of polyarthritis.
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