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Anterior chest wall inflammation by whole-body magnetic resonance imaging in patients with spondyloarthritis: lack of association between clinical and imaging findings in a cross-sectional study

Ulrich Weber12*, Robert GW Lambert3, Kaspar Rufibach4, Walter P Maksymowych1, Juerg Hodler5, Anna Zejden6, Stefan Duewell7, Rudolf O Kissling2, Paul L Filipow3 and Anne G Jurik6

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, 562 Heritage Medical Research Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2S2, Canada

2 Department of Rheumatology, Balgrist University Hospital, Forchstrasse 340, CH-8008 Zürich, Switzerland

3 Department of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging, University of Alberta, 2A2.41 Walter C Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre, 8440-112 Street, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2B7, Canada

4 Division of Biostatistics, Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Zürich, Hirschengraben 84, CH-8001 Zürich, Switzerland

5 Department of Radiology, University Hospital Zürich, Raemistrasse 100, CH-8091 Zürich, Switzerland

6 Department of Radiology, Aarhus University Hospital, Noerrebrogade 44, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

7 Department of Radiology, Kantonsspital Frauenfeld, Spital Thurgau AG, Pfaffenholzstrasse 4, CH-8500 Frauenfeld, Switzerland

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:R3  doi:10.1186/ar3551

Published: 6 January 2012



Inflammatory involvement of the anterior chest wall (ACW) affects the quality of life of patients with spondyloarthritis (SpA), although involvement of the ACW is often neglected on clinical and imaging evaluation. Whole-body (WB) MRI is an imaging method used to assess the ACW in addition to the sacroiliac joints and spine without inconvenience for patients. Our goals in this study were to describe the distribution of ACW inflammation by WB MRI in both early and established SpA and associations between clinical and imaging findings indicative of inflammation.


The ACWs of 122 consecutive SpA patients (95 with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and 27 with nonradiographic SpA (nrSpA)) and 75 healthy controls were scanned by sagittal and coronal WB MRI. The MRI scans were scored independently in random order by seven readers blinded to patient identifiers. Active and structural inflammatory lesions of the ACW were recorded on a web-based data entry form. ACW pain by patient self-report, ACW tenderness on physical examination according to the Maastricht Ankylosing Spondylitis Enthesitis Score (MASES) and lesions detected by MRI were analyzed descriptively. κ statistics served to assess the agreement between clinical and imaging findings.


ACW pain or tenderness was present in 26% of patients, with little difference between AS and nrSpA patients. Bone marrow edema (BME), erosion and fat infiltration were recorded in 44.3%, 34.4% and 27.0% of SpA patients and in 9.3%, 12.0% and 5.3% of controls, respectively. Lesions found by MRI occurred more frequently in AS patients (BME, erosion and fat infiltration in 49.5%, 36.8% and 33.7%, respectively) than in nrSpA patients (25.9%, 25.9% and 3.7%, respectively). The joint most frequently affected by lesions found on MRI scans was the manubriosternal joint. The κ values between clinical assessments and MRI inflammation ranged from -0.10 to only 0.33 for both AS and nrSpA patients.


Among SpA patients, 26% had clinical involvement of the ACW. WB MRI signs of ACW inflammation were found in a substantial proportion of patients with AS (49.5%) and nrSpA (25.9%). There was no association between clinical assessments of ACW, including the MASES, and MRI features.