Accurate detection of synovitis is important in both the diagnosis and outcome assessment of arthritis. This study was undertaken to assess the validity and reproducibility of ultrasonography (US) as a means of detecting synovitis in the knee, by comparing US findings with findings of arthroscopy and clinical examination.
Sixty consecutive patients with knee pain due to various arthritides had a clinical examination and US of their knee performed immediately prior to arthroscopy. All 3 assessments were performed by different clinicians who were blinded to the results obtained with the other modalities. US and clinical examination were compared with arthroscopically detected synovitis as the gold standard. Data from a subset of patients were used for calculating the inter- and intrareader reproducibility of US results, using a standard dichotomous (absence/presence of synovitis) as well as a graded (absence/grade of synovitis) scoring system.
With the use of arthroscopy as the gold standard, US had a higher sensitivity (98% versus 85%), specificity (88% versus 25%), accuracy (97% versus 77%), positive predictive value (98% versus 88%), and negative predictive value (88% versus 20%) compared with clinical examination. The Cohen kappa values for inter- and intrareader reproducibility of US for distinguishing between presence and absence of synovitis were 0.71 and 0.85, respectively (P < 0.05 for both). The weighted kappa values for distinguishing grade of synovitis were 0.65 for inter- and 0.74 for intrareader reproducibility. The kappa value for intrareader reproducibility of arthroscopy results was 0.88.
Ultrasonography is a valid and reproducible technique for detecting synovitis in the knee, and is more accurate than clinical examination. It may be valuable as a tool in studies investigating pain, diagnosis, and treatment response in knee arthritis.