Objective: The purpose of this case report is to present a case of rampant rheumatoid synovitis and arthritis of a patient with a long duration of symptoms and no radiographic abnormalities of rheumatoid arthritis at the initial diagnosis.
Clinical Features: A 49-year-old Hispanic woman presented to a chiropractic teaching clinic with an 8-month history of bilateral, symmetrical hand pain and stiffness noted specifically in her second and third metacarpophalangeal joints. The patient has reported no other health changes and no history of rheumatoid arthritis in the family.
Intervention and Outcome: Based on this patient's complaint, initial bilateral 3-view radiographic examination of the hands using computed radiography was performed. Despite prolonged history of inflammatory joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis confirmed by abnormally high levels of rheumatoid factor, C-reactive protein, and anti-cyclic citrulline peptide antibodies, the patient had no radiographic evidence of rheumatoid arthritis during the initial and repeat radiographic studies.
Conclusion: Some patients with rheumatoid arthritis may present with rampant clinical and laboratory abnormalities despite an apparent lack of radiographically detectable rheumatoid arthritis. This case demonstrates that astute clinicians should primarily rely on the results of clinical and laboratory abnormalities of rheumatoid arthritis and not be deterred or mislead by an apparent lack of radiographic changes at diagnosis. If the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis requires diagnostic imaging confirmation, then magnetic resonance imaging or diagnostic ultrasound of the hands should be used, especially if the initial radiographic assessment remains unrewarding.
Author keywords: Arthritis, Rheumatoid; Rheumatoid Factor; Delayed Diagnosis
Author affiliations: Diagnostic Imaging Department, Clinical Sciences Department, National University of Health Sciences, Lombard, Illinois, United States
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