Introduction to Special Theme Section: Clinical Imaging and the Rheumatic Diseases


In this issue of Arthritis Care & Research, we present the twelfth in a series of themed issues that are highly relevant to rheumatologic practice and the clinical study of rheumatic diseases and are designed to bring to the forefront important, state-of-the-art information in rheumatology and rheumatologic care. The theme, clinical imaging in the rheumatic diseases, covers a broad range of topics including imaging for early diagnosis, use of imaging as an objective measure of progression or followup, and use of imaging to guide interventions. Many aspects of rheumatic diseases are addressed, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, spondyloarthritis, and giant cell arteritis. The focus of imaging topics ranges from the detection of disease aspects and treatment response, to new technologies to extend past uses of images, as well as educational aspects and validity of imaging techniques. Other entities of interest were also covered, such as inflammatory arthritis and response in autoimmune disease.

As technology advances and the precision of imaging continues to improve, rheumatologists and researchers integrate this informative picture of disease activity into our advancing understanding of many of the rheumatic diseases. Rheumatology training programs and continuing education avenues have provided foundations and access to the newest additions of knowledge regarding clinical imaging of patients with rheumatic diseases. It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The use of clinical imaging in the rheumatic diseases, whether related to causation, disease symptoms, or treatment, has been a mainstay of rheumatology. These insights into clinical imaging will become even more essential as we investigate and treat the complex rheumatic diseases. One anticipates that each year will bring better understanding, new technologies, and improved use of imaging of these rheumatic disease entities, which continue to improve our care for patients with rheumatic diseases.

Articles in this issue report on clinical imaging using modalities including ultrasound, radiography, positron emission tomography, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and uses of color Doppler ultrasonography. Topics chosen for this themed issue are focused on imaging in pediatric patients, in early disease, and in the evaluation of treatment response. Also presented for the readership are uses of clinical imaging in rheumatology practices, education and teaching, as well as measurements of validity and reliability.

The call for papers for this theme issue resulted in 115 submissions; from among these, we are pleased to publish 19 original articles covering important aspects of clinical imaging in the rheumatic diseases. These articles are intended to spark intellectual curiosity and generate interest in a more systematic evaluation of the evolving role of clinical imaging, which will lead to new insights and better interpretations of the pathophysiology of rheumatic diseases.