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Ultrasound assessment of hands and feet for synovitis at time of first clinical visit markedly reduces time to diagnosis in routine care

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OBJECTIVES: The role of musculoskeletal US (MSUS) in routine care for diagnosing arthritis is not fully elucidated, but US is more sensitive than clinical joint examination for detecting synovitis. Therefore, the use of US may facilitate diagnosis of arthritis. The aim of the study was to assess whether MSUS examination of hands and feet in relation to the first clinical visit had an impact on the time to reach a final diagnosis and the number of clinical follow-up visits needed after first consultation.

METHODS: Two cohorts referred to the outpatient arthritis clinic with suspected arthritis were compared with each other, (i) MSUS (October 2017 to June 2018) of hands and feet performed prior to the first clinical visit and (ii) MSUS (November 2016 to June 2017) was performed ad hoc, for the following aspects: time to clinical diagnosis, number of clinical visits needed, and number of US examinations.

RESULTS: In total, 163 and 109 patients were included in the MSUS and comparative cohorts, respectively. Adding MSUS to the first clinical visit reduced the time to diagnosis from mean 31 (32.2) days to 12 (17.3) days (P < 0.01). The number of clinical visits needed was reduced from mean 2.8 (1.1) to 2.1 (1.3) (P < 0.01), corresponding to a reduction of 114 visits in the MSUS cohort. A final diagnosis with inflammatory arthritis was found in 76 (47%) of patients in the MSUS cohort vs 29 (27%) in the comparative cohort (P < 0.01).

CONCLUSION: In patients referred for suspected arthritis, routine MSUS in relation to the first clinical visit significantly reduces time to diagnosis and number of clinical visits needed to reach a final diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRheumatology (Oxford, England)
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)2119-2123
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2022

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Society for Rheumatology. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:

    Research areas

  • ultrasound, diagnosis, synovitis, operationality, arthritis, management, Synovitis/diagnostic imaging, Musculoskeletal System/diagnostic imaging, Hand/diagnostic imaging, Humans, Ultrasonography, Arthritis, Rheumatoid/diagnostic imaging

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