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Reliability and construct validity of ultrasonography of soft tissue and destructive changes in erosive osteoarthritis of the interphalangeal finger joints: a comparison with MRI


Objectives To study the reliability and construct validity of ultrasound in interphalangeal finger joints affected by erosive osteoarthritis (EOA) and non-EOA with MRI as the reference method.

Methods 252 joints were examined by ultrasound, conventional radiography and clinical examination. Ultrasound was performed using a high-frequency linear transducer (12×18 MHz). On the same day, magnetic resonance images of 112 joints were obtained on a 3.0 T magnetic resonance unit. The ultrasound and MRI images were re-read independently by other readers unaware of the diagnosis, clinical and other imaging findings. Interobserver reliability was calculated by the percentage of exact agreement obtained and κ statistics. With MRI as the reference method, the sensitivity and specificity of ultrasound in detecting structural (bone erosions and osteophytes) and soft tissue (effusion and grey-scale synovitis) changes in EOA were calculated.

Results Ultrasound and MRI were found to be more sensitive in detecting erosions than conventional radiography in EOA. A high agreement between ultrasound and MRI in the assessment of bone erosions (77.7%), osteophytes (75.9%) and synovitis (86.5%) was present. A high percentage of inflammatory changes was found in EOA, and in smaller amount in non-EOA, both confirmed by MRI. Good interobserver reliability of ultrasound was obtained for all variables (all median κ >0.8).

Conclusion Grey-scale ultrasound proved to be a reliable and valid imaging technique to assess erosions and soft tissue changes, compared with MRI as a reference method in EOA.

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