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Musculoskeletal ultrasound in the diagnosis of rheumatic disease.

The use of musculoskeletal ultrasound (MSKUS) in rheumatology practice and research has increased steadily over the last decade. An ever-growing body of literature shows parity and even superiority of MSKUS when compared to physical examination, plain radiography, and more expensive and static imaging modalities such as MRI. While many use the modality for procedure guidance, investigators continue to demonstrate its ability to impact diagnoses in a variety of rheumatic diseases. Initial efforts focused on establishing MSKUS as a helpful tool for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), especially in the detection of synovitis and joint erosions, but numerous studies are validating the use of MSKUS as a helpful diagnostic tool for the spondyloarthropathies, crystal diseases, osteoarthritis, and other rheumatic diseases. Advances in ultrasound technology are translating into more sensitive and accurate studies. Within the research community, current efforts aim at maximizing the direct clinical impact of MSKUS by developing global or patient level assessments and simplified joint scoring systems, with improvements in intra- and inter-reader reproducibility.

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