Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) | All You Need to Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis

4) Imaging

Diagnostic imaging tests are frequently used to allow physicians to have a closer look at the damaged organ. There are several types of imaging tests; each of them is sensitive to a certain type of body tissues. The captured images by these imaging techniques provide information and show indications of inflammations, erosion, and joint deformities. Imaging tests help rheumatologists greatly evaluate the severity of rheumatoid arthritis and monitor the progression of patients’ conditions. Rheumatologists usually look for swelling, erosion of bones forming the joint, and fractures in the captured picture. We will cover the most asked for imaging tests in diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis:

  1. X-rays imaging test is well known to be used as a basic diagnostic method by many specialists. X-rays imaging test involves passing x-rays through the body and being absorbed by joint tissues at different rates giving them different exposures. Standard x-rays test is cheap and almost available in all hospitals, so rheumatologists usually prefer it in judging bone density and intactness. Although the x-rays test is an excellent method in observing the deterioration of the bony parts of joints, it is less effective in detecting the earliest signs of immune disorders. Rheumatoid arthritis patients often do not have to get an x-ray test unless their bones are impaired and eroded.
  2. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been used in diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis. MRI technique is more advanced than x-rays imaging. MRI scan involves using strong magnets to produce clear images of internal organs. Radiologists consider MRI superior in imaging soft tissues and observing fluid accumulation. rheumatologists use MRI to detect abnormalities in the soft tissues like muscles, tendons, and synovium of joints. It is believed that doctors can rely on MRI to detect early signs of RA including inflammation and swelling. MRI test is not considered the first option in diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis because it is relatively expensive and is not available in all hospitals. Patients complain sometimes from the loud noise of the scanner during having MRI.
  3. Ultrasound imaging test is a well-known and commonly used diagnostic method in the last two decades especially in Europe and the USA. Rheumatologists believe that the ultrasound imaging technique is a reliable tool in diagnosing arthritis. The ultrasound technique involves using a machine called a sonogram emits high-frequency sound waves leading to the formation of a clear picture of internal organs. Ultrasound imaging is painless and safe as it does not involve using radiation. Ultrasound as well as MRI tests are approved to detect early signs of rheumatoid arthritis as both of them are sensitive to soft tissues. Unlike MRI, ultrasound imaging test could be done without previous preparation and for everybody which speed up the process of diagnosis. The use of an ultrasound technique for investigating rheumatoid arthritis is currently increasing as ultrasound proved its effectiveness in revealing the degree of the inflammation and tissue damage.