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Extended report
Synovial membrane immunohistology in early untreated juvenile idiopathic arthritis: differences between clinical subgroups
  1. Sorcha Finnegan1,
  2. Susan Clarke2,
  3. David Gibson3,
  4. Catherine McAllister4,
  5. Madeleine Rooney1
  1. 1Centre for Infection and Immunity, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK
  2. 2Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK
  3. 3Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes, School of Medicine, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado, USA
  4. 4Department of Rheumatology, Belfast Hospital Trust, Musgrave Park Hospital, Belfast, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sorcha Finnegan, Arthritis Research Group, Centre for Infection and Immunity, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, Room 3.20, Health Sciences Building, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, UK; s.finnegan{at}


Objective Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) consists of a heterogeneous group of inflammatory disorders, within which there are a number of clinical subgroups. Diagnosis and assignment to a particular subgroup can be problematical and more concise methods of subgroup classification are required. This study of the synovial membrane characterises the immunohistochemical features in early untreated, newly diagnosed JIA and compares findings with disease subgroup at 2 years.

Methods 42 patients with newly diagnosed untreated JIA underwent synovial biopsy before the administration of steroids or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. Patients were classified as either polyarticular, persistent oligoarticular or extended-to-be oligoarticular. The location and semiquantitative analysis of T-cell subsets, B cells, macrophages and blood vessels were determined using immunohistochemistry.

Results Synovial hyperplasia varied significantly between the three groups (p<0.0001). There was a significant difference in the CD3 T-cell population between the three groups (p=0.004) and between the extended-to-be and persistent group (p=0.032). CD4 expression was significantly higher in the poly and extended-to-be oligo groups (p=0.002), again the extended-to-be group had more CD4 T cells than the persistent group (p=0.008). B-cell infiltrates were more marked in the polyarticular group and were significantly higher in the extended-to-be group compared with the persistent group (p=0.005). Vascularisation was more pronounced in the polyarticular and extended-to-be oligoarticular groups, the extended-to-be group had significantly more vascularisation than the persistent group (p=0.0002).

Conclusions There are significant differences in the histomorphometric features of synovial tissue between patient subgroups. Immunohistological examination of synovial membrane biopsies may provide further insight into early disease processes in JIA.

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  • Funding This study was funded by Arthritis Research UK and the Research and Development Office, Health and Personal Social Services, Northern Ireland.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Office for Research Ethics Committees, Northern Ireland.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.