Temporomandibular joint internal derangement: relationship between joint pain and MR grading of effusion and total protein concentration in the joint fluid

N Güler, S Uçkan, P Imirzalioğlu, S Açikgözoğlu
Dento Maxillo Facial Radiology 2005, 34 (3): 175-81

OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study was to determine whether there is any association between the protein concentration in the synovial fluid and (i) the amount of articular hydrops, as graded in magnetic resonance (MR) images, and (ii) joint pain in temporomandibular joints (TMJs) with and without displacement of the disc.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: This study involved 16 joints in 16 patients referred to our clinic with the complaint of pain and limited mouth opening. The control group consisted of 15 joints in 15 patients with unilaterally normal disc and condyle relationship and no pain while the opposite side had a non-painful joint with disc displacement without reduction (DDwoR). The subjects and controls were different individuals and only a single joint was used for each. Pain and dysfunction were evaluated by visual analogue scale. Bilateral proton density and T2 weighted images of the TMJs of the 31 subjects were analysed for fluid and condyle bony changes as well as disc position. The amount of fluid, identified as an area of high signal intensity in the region of the upper and lower joint spaces, was characterized as none, minimal, moderate or marked. Arthrocentesis was performed both for synovial fluid analysis of total protein concentration and the treatment of the joints with DDwoR. Total protein concentration was measured by using protein dye binding on spectrophotometry.

RESULTS: All patients experienced a significant (P<0.01) increase in maximal mouth opening immediately post-arthrocentesis. In the study group, the disc was displaced most frequently in an anteriormedial direction (75%) and deformation of disc form was seen in 13 joints. Condylar bony changes were seen in 27% of joints in the control group and in 81% of joints in the study group. A statistically significant association was found between joints with disc displacement, disc form and condylar bony changes (P<0.05). In the control group, only one joint, which had an osteophyte, showed joint effusion (JE) with moderate fluid. In the study group, only four joints had no fluid (25%). JE was found in 10 (63%) joints with disc displacement on anteromedial direction, in 10 (63%) joints with disc deformation and in 10 (63%) joints with osteophytes and erosion. Mean total protein concentration was 16.87+/-7.9 (range 7.4-34.1 mg dl-1) in control joints, 55.08+/-35.16 (range 21.5-153.9 mg dl-1) in study joints. There were significant differences in the mean total protein concentration between the control and study groups (P<0.01). Significant positive correlation was found between the total protein concentration and JE (r=0.65, P<0.01). No significant correlation was found between the level of pain and dysfunction and JE and total protein concentration in either control or study groups (P>0.05).

CONCLUSION: Pain in the TMJ was not related to MR findings of effusion in internal derangement and synovial fluid aspirate findings of total protein concentration. However, total protein concentration was related to the amount of JE in DDwoR joints and painful joints were more likely to demonstrate the JE.

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