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BMJ. 2007 October 13; 335(7623): 746.
PMCID: PMC2018812
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Magnetic resonance imaging can define type of arthritis

In 41 patients with arthritis whose disorder remained unclassified despite conventional clinical, biochemical, and radiological tests, more precise diagnosis proved possible with contrast enhanced magnetic resonance imaging of the hand and whole body bone scintigraphy.

Two rheumatologists reviewing the images categorised 13 patients as having rheumatoid arthritis, 8 osteoarthritis, and 11 “other” inflammatory disorders; they were unable to categorise the remaining nine patients. Two years later, 11 of the 13 patients with rheumatoid arthritis fulfilled accepted diagnostic criteria for the disorder, with one being recategorised as having psoriatic arthritis and the other as having self limiting non-specific disease. No patient originally categorised as not having rheumatoid arthritis subsequently developed that condition.

As early treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is considered essential for improved clinical outcome in the disorder, the investigators suggest incorporating their investigative procedures into initial evaluation of unclassified arthritis.

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