To determine the efficacy of dynamic gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the wrist in the evaluation of disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


Thirty-six patients with RA (with different degrees of disease activity) and 5 healthy controls were studied. MRI was performed with a low-field (0.2T), extremity-dedicated machine. After an intravenous bolus injection of gadolinium–diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid, 20 consecutive fast spin-echo images of 3 slices of the wrist were obtained every 18 seconds.


The curves of synovial membrane enhancement identified the following 2 groups: controls and RA patients in remission, and RA patients with active or intermediately active disease. Both the rate of early enhancement (REE) and relative enhancement (RE) were significantly higher in patients with active RA than in those with inactive RA and controls. The REE and RE were significantly correlated with the number of swollen joints (P < 0.00001 and P = 0.003, respectively), the number of tender joints (P < 0.00001 and P = 0.004, respectively), the Ritchie index (P = 0.0002 for both REE and RE), the Disease Activity Score (P = 0.0004 and P = 0.0008, respectively), the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) (P = 0.0002 and P = 0.0007, respectively), early morning stiffness (P = 0.001 and P = 0.009, respectively), the C-reactive protein level (P = 0.015 and P = 0.03, respectively), the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (P = 0.03, RE only), and α2 globulins (P = 0.036 and P = 0.028, respectively).


Our data support use of dynamic MRI for discriminating active from inactive RA. Enhancement curves are associated not only with laboratory and clinical indicators of inflammation, but also with the HAQ, a relevant predictor of RA functional outcome. This technique can be repeated frequently and is an excellent candidate for the ideal method for the followup of patients with RA.