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The diagnostic accuracy of the squeeze test to identify arthritis: a cross-sectional cohort study
  1. W B van den Bosch1,
  2. L Mangnus1,
  3. M Reijnierse2,
  4. T W J Huizinga1,
  5. A H M van der Helm-van Mil1
  1. 1Department of Rheumatology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, Netherlands
  2. 2Department of Radiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to W B van den Bosch, Department of Rheumatology, Leiden University Medical Center, P.O. Box 9600, Leiden 2300 RC, The Netherlands; W.B.van_den_Bosch{at}


Objectives In daily practice, the squeeze test is used to screen for arthritis in metacarpophalangeal (MCP) and metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joints. This cross-sectional cohort study determined the diagnostic accuracy of this test.

Methods Patients referred with arthralgia of recent onset that had either a clinical suspicion for progression to arthritis or clinically apparent arthritis were studied. The main outcome was swelling at physical examination of ≥1 MCP or MTP joint. Joint inflammation detected at extremity MRI was the secondary outcome.

Results Both at MCP and MTP joints, a positive squeeze test associated with swollen joints (p<0.005). The sensitivity of the test at the MCP joints was 53%, specificity 82%, positive likelihood ratio (LR+) 3.0, negative likelihood ratio (LR−) 0.6 and area under the receiver operator characteristic curve (AUC) 0.68. At the MTP joints, the sensitivity was 54%, specificity 74%, LR+ 2.1, LR− 0.6 and AUC 0.64. With MRI-detected inflammation as outcome, the sensitivity and specificity were 39% and 86% and 31% and 69% for the test at the MCP and MTP joints, respectively.

Conclusions A positive squeeze test is associated with local joint inflammation but the sensitivity is low, indicating a high percentage of swollen joints with a negative squeeze test. When the test is used on its own, it is insufficient to detect early arthritis.

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Early Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging

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