Background: The forefoot is a preferential location for joint and tendon sheath inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It also contains bursae, of which the intermetatarsal bursae have a synovial lining. Some small imaging studies suggested that intermetatarsal bursitis (IMB) and submetatarsal bursitis (SMB) are involved in RA, but their association has not been thoroughly explored. Healthy control studies suggested that lesion size might be relevant. We studied the relation between IMB and SMB in early RA, compared to other arthritides and healthy controls, and the relevance of lesion sizes. Methods: Six hundred and thirty-four participants were studied: 157 consecutive patients presenting with early RA, 284 other arthritides, and 193 healthy controls. All underwent unilateral contrast-enhanced MRI of the forefoot at presentation. Two readers independently scored IMB and SMB and measured transverse and dorsoplantar diameters, blinded to clinical data. Subsequently, consensus was reached. Intra-reader ICC was 0.89. Logistic regression models were used, and test characteristics were calculated. Results: IMB and SMB associated with RA independent of each other (P < 0.001) and independent of age, gender, BMI, RA-MRI inflammation, and anti-CCP-antibodies (P = 0.041). Sensitivity for RA of IMB was 69%, and for SMB 25%. Specificity for IMB was 70% compared to other arthritides, and 84% compared to healthy controls. For SMB, this was 94% and 97% respectively. Regarding lesion size, the groups had considerable overlap: no cut-off size for RA could be distinguished with high sensitivity and specificity. Conclusion: Intermetatarsal and submetatarsal bursitis associated with early rheumatoid arthritis, contributing to the emerging evidence that inflammation of juxta-articular soft tissues is an early feature of RA.

Bursitis, Early arthritis, Foot, Healthy controls, Magnetic resonance imaging, Rheumatoid arthritis,
Arthritis Research and Therapy
Department of Pediatrics

Dakkak, Y.J. (Yousra J.), Niemantsverdriet, E. (Ellis), van der Helm-van Mil, A.H.M, & Reijnierse, M. (2020). Increased frequency of intermetatarsal and submetatarsal bursitis in early rheumatoid arthritis: a large case-controlled MRI study. Arthritis Research and Therapy, 22(1). doi:10.1186/s13075-020-02359-w