Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis
In addition to being a helpful diagnostic tool, ultrasound can be used to monitor a patient’s response to treatments (though it is rarely used in clinical practice).
X-Ray. In the early stages of the rheumatoid arthritis, a person may only have soft tissue swelling, which is not detectable on an X-ray, so X-rays are not often used for early diagnosis.
X-rays may be used when the disease has progressed. X-rays can help detect bone damage (erosions) that occurs as a result of long-standing rheumatoid arthritis. They can also detect a narrowing of the joints space, which occurs when cartilage degrades and the bones in the joint get closer together.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Like ultrasound, MRI can detect inflammation and other changes in the joint’s soft tissue before bone erosion takes place. In addition, an MRI can show bone damage.
The drawback to MRI is that that it is more time consuming and expensive than ultrasound and X-ray. Typically, an MRI is not necessary and only recommended when x-rays and ultrasound have not proven helpful.