OBJECTIVE: In this study we aimed to describe the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) pattern of the distribution of bone marrow edema (BME) and joint erosion in hands and wrists of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) with arthritis in comparison with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and healthy subjects (H). METHODS: SLE patients with arthritis (n = 50), patients with RA (n = 22), and H (n = 48) were enrolled. Every patient underwent a non-dominant hand (2nd-5th metacarpophalangeal joints) and wrist MRI without contrast injection with a low-field extremity dedicated 0.2-Tesla instrument. RESULTS: BME was observed in two SLE patients in the hand (4%) and in 15 in the wrist (13%) versus three (30%), and 14 (63%) RA patients. No BME was found in H. Erosions were observed in the hand in 24 SLE patients (48%), 15 RA patients (68%), and 9 H (18 %); in the wrist, in 41 (82%) SLE, all RA and 47 (97%) H. The cumulative erosive burden in SLE was significantly higher than in H (c = 0.002) but similar to RA patients. CONCLUSIONS: Joint involvement of the wrist in SLE is similar to RA and is not as rare as expected, as shown by the comparison with healthy subjects. On the contrary, the involvement of the hand in SLE is significantly lower compared to RA.
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