OBJECTIVES: To test the reliability of new ultrasound (US) definitions and quantification of synovial hypertrophy (SH) and power Doppler (PD) signal, separately and in combination, in a range of joints in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) using the European League Against Rheumatisms-Outcomes Measures in Rheumatology (EULAR-OMERACT) combined score for PD and SH.
METHODS: A stepwise approach was used: (1) scoring static images of metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joints in a web-based exercise and subsequently when scanning patients; (2) scoring static images of wrist, proximal interphalangeal joints, knee and metatarsophalangeal joints in a web-based exercise and subsequently when scanning patients using different acquisitions (standardised vs usual practice). For reliability, kappa coefficients (κ) were used.
RESULTS: Scoring MCP joints in static images showed substantial intraobserver variability but good to excellent interobserver reliability. In patients, intraobserver reliability was the same for the two acquisition methods. Interobserver reliability for SH (κ=0.87) and PD (κ=0.79) and the EULAR-OMERACT combined score (κ=0.86) were better when using a 'standardised' scan. For the other joints, the intraobserver reliability was excellent in static images for all scores (κ=0.8-0.97) and the interobserver reliability marginally lower. When using standardised scanning in patients, the intraobserver was good (κ=0.64 for SH and the EULAR-OMERACT combined score, 0.66 for PD) and the interobserver reliability was also good especially for PD (κ range=0.41-0.92).
CONCLUSION: The EULAR-OMERACT score demonstrated moderate-good reliability in MCP joints using a standardised scan and is equally applicable in non-MCP joints. This scoring system should underpin improved reliability and consequently the responsiveness of US in RA clinical trials.