What is the most effective method of spinal imaging in rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?

Updated: Feb 07, 2020
  • Author: Howard R Smith, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Spinal imaging in RA involves radiography, MRI, and CT. As with hand imaging in RA, the mainstay of imaging remains plain radiography. Only about 50% of patients with radiographic evidence of atlantoaxial subluxation are actually symptomatic.

The role of plain radiography is to establish whether the patient has risk factors for cord compression. The major role for CT and MRI is in preoperative assessment of the 2 main indications for surgical intervention—namely, neurologic deficit and severe pain. [62, 63] Although CT scanning can document bone damage and alignment abnormalities, especially with more detailed multiplanar reconstruction, MRI has become the preferred modality for evaluation of the spinal cord and neural elements. [64]

See Rheumatoid Arthritis Spine Imaging for complete information on this topic.

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