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Assessment of phalangeal bone loss in patients with rheumatoid arthritis by quantitative ultrasound
  1. P Röbena,
  2. R Barkmanna,
  3. S Ullrichc,
  4. A Gausec,
  5. M Hellerb,
  6. C-C Glüera
  1. aArbeitsgruppe Medizinische Physik, Universitätsklinikum Kiel, Germany, bKlinik für Diagnostische Radiologie am Universitätsklinikum Kiel, Germany, cPoliklinik für Rheumatologie, Universitätsklinikum Lübeck and Rheumaklinik Bad Bramstedt GmbH, Germany
  1. Professor C-C Glüer, Medizinische Physik, Klinik für Diagnostische Radiologie, Universitätsklinikum Kiel, Michaelisstr 9, 24105 Kiel, Germanyglueer{at}


OBJECTIVE Periarticular osteopenia is an early radiological sign of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Quantitative ultrasound (QUS) devices have recently been shown to be useful for assessing osteoporosis. In this study the capability of a transportable and easy to use QUS device to detect skeletal impairment of the finger phalanges in patients with RA was investigated.

METHODS In a cross sectional study 83 women (30 controls, 29 with glucocorticosteroid (GC) treated RA, and 24 with GC treated vasculitis) were examined. QUS measurements were obtained at the metaphyses of the proximal phalanges II–V and directly at the proximal interphalangeal joints II–IV with a DBM Sonic 1200 (IGEA, Italy) QUS device. Amplitude dependent speed of sound (AD-SoS) was evaluated. In 23 of the patients with RA, hand radiographs were evaluated.

RESULTS Significant differences between patients with RA and the other groups were found for AD-SoS at both measurement sites. Compared with age matched controls, the AD-SoS of patients with RA was lowered by two and three standard deviations at the metaphysis and joint, respectively. Fingers of patients with RA without erosions (Larsen score 0–I) already had significantly decreased QUS values, which deteriorated further with the development of erosions (Larsen II–V).

CONCLUSION This study indicates that QUS is sensitive to phalangeal periarticular bone loss in RA. QUS is a quick, simple, and inexpensive method free of ionising radiation that appears to be suited to detection of early stages of periarticular bone loss. Its clinical use in the assessment of early RA should be further evaluated in prospective studies.

  • ultrasound
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • osteoporosis
  • glucocorticosteroids

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