Doppler ultrasound imaging techniques for assessment of synovial inflammation
Emilio Filippucci,1 Fausto Salaffi,1 Marina Carotti,2 Walter Grassi1
1Rheumatology Department, Polytechnic University of the Marche, Ancona, Italy; 2Department of Radiology, Polytechnic University of the Marche, Ancona, Italy
Abstract: Ultrasound is an evolving technique, and the rapid progress made in ultrasound technology over the past ten years has dramatically increased its range of applications in rheumatology. One of the most exciting advances is the use of Doppler ultrasound imaging in the assessment of blood flow abnormalities at the synovial tissue level in patients with chronic inflammatory arthritis. This review describes the Doppler techniques available and their main applications in patients with inflammatory arthritis, discusses the evidence supporting their use, and outlines the latest advances in hardware and software. Spectral, color, and power Doppler allow sensitive assessment of vascular abnormalities at the synovial tissue level. Use of contrast agents enhances visualization of the small synovial vessels using color or power Doppler ultrasound and allows for accurate characterization of the rheumatoid pannus. Doppler techniques represent a unique method for assessment of synovial inflammation, showing blood flow characteristics in real time. They are safe, noninvasive, cost-effective, and have high sensitivity in revealing and monitoring synovitis. However, several questions still need to be answered. In the near future, the Doppler techniques described here, together with upcoming hardware and software facilities, will be investigated further and a consensus will be reached on their feasibility and appropriate use in daily rheumatologic practice.
Keywords: power and color Doppler techniques, ultrasound, contrast media, synovitis, rheumatoid arthritis
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