To investigate the stability over 2 weeks of ultrasonographic assessments of synovial thickness and vascularity in all 10 metacarpophalangeal joints of subjects with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with a range of disease activities as measured by the validated Disease Activity Score-28 joint score (DAS28-ESR). And in subjects with severe disease activity, to compare the sensitivity of these measurements, acute-phase markers, and vascular endothelial growth factor to change in response to 2 weeks of oral prednisolone (7.5 mg daily).
A group of 38 subjects with RA were enrolled, 13 (mean DAS28 2.1), 14 (mean DAS28 5.2), and 11 (mean DAS28 5.7) meriting oral corticosteroid treatment. Synovial thickness and vascularity were assessed by ultrasonography at 3 timepoints. Images were ranked by semiquantitative scale. Vascularity was also measured by quantitative determination of the power Doppler area (PDA).
In the whole RA cohort, baseline indices of synovial thickness and vascularity correlated with DAS28, as did PDA (r = 0.42, p < 0.05). In the RA groups on stable therapy, synovial thickness and vascularity showed little variation over 2 weeks. In the corticosteroid group, PDA had fold changes of −1.9-fold (p < 0.05) after 1 week and −2.2-fold (p < 0.05) after 2 weeks. These were the largest fold changes of all measured variables.
Ultrasonographic measures can differentiate disease severity in RA correlating closely with DAS28. Quantitative power Doppler signal was significantly reduced within 1 week of oral prednisolone, a rapid kinetic suggesting that PDA may have value as a sensitive early marker of therapeutic response.