Fast Five Quiz: Rheumatoid Arthritis Workup

Herbert S. Diamond, MD


June 10, 2020

Conventional radiography remains the gold standard for imaging patients with RA due to its cost effectiveness, availability, and reproducibility—the latter of which allows for serial monitoring of disease progression.

Although MRI is more sensitive than conventional radiography for detecting early RA lesions, the high cost and lower availability associated with this modality limit its use. MRI, however, may be considered for patients with RA who have severe spinal pain or related neurologic deficits and for whom surgery is indicated. Although CT scan, which can assess bone damage and abnormal spinal alignment, also may be considered in the preoperative setting, MRI is the preferred modality for spinal imaging.

Ultrasonography is not yet a standard of care, but its cost-effectiveness, convenience, and wide availability have led to increasing use of this modality in daily practice. With respect to RA, ultrasound permits rapid assessment of effusions, cysts, erosions, synovial membrane, and tendon sheaths.

Learn more about the role of imaging studies in the workup for RA.


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