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Study supports use of low-dose CT scanning for AS patients

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Low-dose CT scanning of the spine is a promising method of assessing patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a new study concludes.

AS is a painful and progressive form of arthritis which causes inflammation in the spine and other joints and mainly affects the back. Around 200,000 people in the UK live with the condition.

The findings, presented at the recent Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR), show that low-dose computed tomography (LD-CT) is more sensitive than conventional radiographs (X-rays) in the monitoring of disease progression in AS patients.

Reporting on the research, the European League Against Rheumatism noted that LD-CT, using a newly developed scoring method for assessing bone formation in AS patients, had previously been shown to be reliable and sensitive, with good consistency between different individuals interpreting the images.

In the latest study, designed to further validate LD-CT, researchers compared its ability to demonstrate the formation of new bony growths (known as syndesmophytes) and/or an increase in size of these syndesmophytes. This revealed that LD-CT consistently detected more AS patients with these signs of disease progression than conventional X-rays.

“Standard dose computed tomography is a sensitive method for assessing structural changes in the spine in patients with AS,” explained lead author Dr Anoek de Koning from the Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, in the Netherlands. “However, its clinical utility has been limited due to its use of relatively high doses of ionising radiation.”

“Our findings support the use of LD-CT as a sensitive method for the assessment of new or growing syndesmophytes in future clinical research without exposing patients to high doses of radiation,” she added.