The effects of intra-articular methotrexate (I/A MTX) in knee synovitis in rheumatoid arthritis have been previously evaluated. I/A MTX has not been studied in other joints. Ultrasonography (US) has been little studied in monitoring the effect of I/A MTX. The aim of the study is to test the efficacy of I/A MTX in suppression of persistent synovitis in medium-sized joints (ankle, wrist, and elbow) in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Patients were divided into two groups: group 1 (methotrexate group): 56 patients in which 84 joints (32 ankles, 28 wrists, and 24 elbows) were injected intra-articularly by 10 mg of methotrexate in the targeted joint on a weekly basis for 8 weeks and group 2 (steroid group): 44 patients in which 70 joints (26 ankles, 24 wrists, and 20 elbows) were injected once by Triamcinolone acetonide 40 mg. Clinical, ultrasonographic, and power Doppler US (PDUS) evaluation was done before the first injection (W0), after 2 months (W8), and after 5 months (W20). Synovial thickness and the intra-articular power Doppler signal were graded on a semiquantitative scale from 0 to 3 during the US examination. Clinical parameters improved significantly in both groups between baselines and 2 months. In both groups, gray-scale US and power Doppler US showed that synovial thickness and intra-articular power signals were reduced significantly between W0 and W8. The improvement of clinical parameters continued in the methotrexate group up to W20, but in the corticosteroid group, clinical parameters at W20 were similar to clinical parameters at W0. In the methotrexate group, there was an insignificant increase in synovial thickness between W8 and W20 while there was a significant increase in power Doppler signals between W8 and W20, p < 0.05. In the corticosteroid group, there was a significant increase in both synovial thickening and power Doppler signals between W8 and W20, p < 0.001. In the MTX group, all patients at week 0 showed that the Doppler signal in grades 2 and 3 is 100%; at 8 weeks, most of the patients showed that the power Doppler in grade 0 is 76%; and at week 20, most of the patients showed that the power Doppler signal in grade 0 is 28% and in grade 1 is 47%, while in grades 2 and 3 is 23.6%, so there is an improvement compared to the baseline of treatment. Repeated I/A MTX resulted in a decrease in the degree of synovitis of medium-sized joints in RA patients both clinically and by power Doppler US.
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This study was approved by ethics committee of our university and all patients give written consent for injections after explaining the side effects.
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Mortada, M.A., Abdelwhab, S.M. & Elgawish, M.H. Intra-articular methotrexate versus corticosteroid injections in medium-sized joints of rheumatoid arthritis patients—an intervention study. Clin Rheumatol 37, 331–337 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10067-017-3843-y