Very early improvements in the wrist and hand assessed by power doppler sonography predicting later favorable responses in tocilizumab-treated patients with rheumatoid arthritis




To investigate the response of tocilizumab (TCZ) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by ultrasonographic evaluation of changes in the wrist and hand, and to determine whether such assessments during early TCZ treatment predict later clinical outcome.


Thirty-two RA patients about to receive TCZ treatment were examined by ultrasound at baseline and after 2 weeks using the Outcome Measures in Rheumatology Clinical Trials semiquantitative scoring of 22 joints (both wrists, proximal interphalangeal joints 1–5, and metacarpophalangeal joints 1–5) as well as clinical and laboratory variables, leading to a calculation of composite indexes. The aim was to determine whether methotrexate treatment and clinical, laboratory, and ultrasonographic evaluation after 2 weeks of TCZ treatment predict treatment outcome at 24 weeks, as assessed by the Disease Activity Score in 28 joints (DAS28).


Changes of ultrasound scores after 2 weeks were found to be correlated with changes in DAS28 at 24 weeks (r = 0.545–0.622, P < 0.05). The change of sum power Doppler scores after 2 weeks of treatment was identified as the variable most closely correlated with the change in DAS28 at 24 weeks (r = 0.622, P < 0.05).


The best predictors after 2 weeks of favorable treatment outcome at 24 weeks were improved power Doppler scores. Methotrexate treatment and composite indexes did not predict favorable treatment outcome in this study.