Inflammatory arthritis includes several types of diseases that cause the immune system to attack the joints and soft tissues. Monitoring disease progression and damage is one way to determine whether a change in treatment is warranted and identify the severity of the disease.
Taking digital x-rays is by far the most common imaging technique used to monitor inflammatory arthritis. Since more x-rays are done digitally than with plain film, the time it takes to perform x-rays and make the results available to providers has also decreased. One of the challenges with x-ray technology is that it does not show the entire magnitude of damage in inflammatory arthritis. Radiologists can see some degree of swelling in the soft tissues and damage to the joint surface. They can also differentiate between damage caused by inflammatory arthritis versus osteoarthritis. Joint space narrowing that is indicative of lost cartilage, usually in osteoarthritis, also appears on x-rays, but some soft tissue issues do not always show up on x-rays.
Musculoskeletal ultrasound (MUSU) is another easily-accessible and cost-effective way of monitoring inflammatory arthritis. Some types of problems that show up on MUSU include soft tissue swelling, ligament or tendon tears, and excess fluid in the bursae. MUSU is not used frequently in monitoring disease progression, but the information revealed during the imaging test could help practitioners make better treatment decisions, especially for patients with early-stage arthritis.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most sophisticated option available to monitor disease progression in inflammatory arthritis. Due to the expense of MRI, it is more likely used when the disease causes damage to a joint that does not show up on x-ray. MRI allows for a highly-detailed picture, that can include fine details that may be missed with other imaging. For example, meniscus tears can be easily missed without using arthroscopy. Small soft tissue tears and even fractures may be visible with MRI. The major advantage of MRI is that practitioners are capable of seeing early damage. In the early stages of inflammatory arthritis, the joints may not have obvious damage, but the surrounding soft tissue may have tears or laxity, which further contributes to joint damage.
As technology has progressed, there have been more ways to monitor disease progression in inflammatory arthritis. With digital x-rays and other imaging technology, doctors can easily measure the effects of inflammatory arthritis.
To learn more about digital x-ray machines and imagining technology, contact a company in your area like VXS Imaging.