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What is the role of imaging in the clinical diagnosis of osteoarthritis and disease management?

Rheumatology 2018 May 2
While OA is predominantly diagnosed on the basis of clinical criteria, imaging may aid with differential diagnosis in clinically suspected cases. While plain radiographs are traditionally the first choice of imaging modality, MRI and US also have a valuable role in assessing multiple pathologic features of OA, although each has particular advantages and disadvantages. Although modern imaging modalities provide the capability to detect a wide range of osseous and soft tissue (cartilage, menisci, ligaments, synovitis, effusion) OA-related structural damage, this extra information has not yet favourably influenced the clinical decision-making and management process. Imaging is recommended if there are unexpected rapid changes in clinical outcomes to determine whether it relates to disease severity or an additional diagnosis. On developing specific treatments, imaging serves as a sensitive tool to measure treatment response. This narrative review aims to describe the role of imaging modalities to aid in OA diagnosis, disease progression and management. It also provides insight into the use of these modalities in finding targeted treatment strategies in clinical research.

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