Ultrasound characteristics of soft tissues near sacroiliac joints and in the lumbar region of patients with ankylosing spondylitis

Ko-Jen Li, Huan-Chen Lin, Chiao-Feng Cheng, Tiffany Ting-Fang Shih, Cheng-Hsun Lu, Peemongkon Wattananon, Wen-Shiang Chen, Hsing-Kuo Wang


Aims: To investigate the musculoskeletal morphomechanical properties (i.e., the thickness and elastic modulus) and the total count of power Doppler signals near the sacroiliac joints in patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and non-AS individuals.

Material and methods: Twenty participants with AS [median age (interquartile range): 31.7 (11.04) years] and 19 controls [36.3 (10.5) years] with no AS history were recruited. Bilateral ultrasound image acquisition was performed, including the short posterior sacroiliac ligament, interosseous sacroiliac ligament, long posterior sacroiliac ligament, iliolumbar ligament, proximal piriformis muscle, and sacrotuberous ligament. The intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) of ultrasound parameters, laboratory test results of human leukocyte antigen B27, C-reactive protein, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and self-reported physical and disease activity scores were also obtained.

Results: The ligaments and piriformis muscle were thicker and stiffer (greater elastic modulus) in participants with AS than in non-AS participants (all p<0.01). The measurements showed good or excellent reliability (all ICC(3,1) >0.85). The numbers of power Doppler signals detected in the iliolumbar ligament, proximal piriformis muscle, and sacrotuberous ligament were higher in participants with AS than in non-AS participants (all p<0.001). A correlation was identified between disease duration and the elastic modulus of the piriformis muscle (r=0.640, p=0.003).

Conclusion: We conclude that the ligaments and proximal piriformis muscle of AS participants have increased thickness, elastic modulus, and power Doppler signal than those of non-AS individuals. These reliable findings may serve as potential markers for the early diagnosis of AS and for assessing medication effects.


spondyloarthritis; sacroiliac joints; elastography; ligament; power Doppler

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11152/mu-3973


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