New Zealand researchers have discovered that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the wrist in patients in the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be used to forecast functional outcomes years later. For their study, the investigators followed 42 patients in the beginning stages of RA for 6 years. They looked at MRI of the dominant wrist, conventional x-rays, and the clinical assessment of the disease.
The results showed that discovery of fluid around the bone (bone edema), using MRI, strongly predicted bone erosion scores after 6 years. MRI bone edema also correlated with the health assessment score at the study's onset. Total MRI score and bone erosion after 6 years indicated a good association with measures of function, noted the researchers in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases (May 2004).