To assess the intra- and interobserver reproducibility of musculoskeletal ultrasonography (US) in detecting inflammatory shoulder changes in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and to determine the agreement between US and the Shoulder Pain and Disability Index (SPADI) and the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) questionnaire, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a gold standard.


Eleven rheumatologists investigated 10 patients in 2 rounds independently and blindly of each other by US. US results were compared with shoulder function tests and MRI.


The positive and negative predictive values (NPVs) for axillary recess synovitis (ARS) were 0.88 and 0.43, respectively, for posterior recess synovitis (PRS) were 0.36 and 0.97, respectively, for subacromial/subdeltoid bursitis (SASB) were 0.85 and 0.28, respectively, and the NPV for biceps tenosynovitis (BT) was 1.00. The intraobserver kappa was 0.62 for ARS, 0.59 for PRS, 0.51 for BT, and 0.70 for SASB. The intraobserver kappa for power Doppler US (PDUS) signal was 0.91 for PRS, 0.77 for ARS, 0.94 for SASB, and 0.53 for BT. The interobserver maximum kappa was 0.46 for BT, 0.95 for ARS, 0.52 for PRS, and 0.61 for SASB. The interobserver reliability of PDUS was 1.0 for PRS, 0.1 for ARS, 0.5 for BT, and 1.0 for SASB. P values for the SPADI and DASH versus cuff tear on US were 0.02 and 0.01, respectively; all other relationships were not significant.


Overall agreements between gray-scale US and MRI regarding synovitis of the shoulder varied considerably, but excellent results were seen for PDUS. Measures of shoulder function have a poor relationship with US and MRI. Improved standardization of US scanning technique could further reliability of shoulder US.