Radiation Synovectomy: an effective alternative treatment for inflamed small joints

Hippokratia 2010, 14(1):22-27

N. Karavida, A. Notopouloss


An inflamed painful joint is one of the most common indications for the patient to be referred to a rheumatologist or an orthopedician. In relation to the aetiology, the therapeutic approach might be systemic, local or a combination of them in some cases, always with the thought of balancing risk with benefit for the patient. In all cases, independently of the cause, the goal of therapy is to improve the quality of life through the reduction of pain, improvement of mobility and preservation of function. Nuclear Medicine has to offer Radiosynoviorthesis, an effective alternative procedure for treating inflamed small joints. Various radionuclides are available for radiosynoviorthesis. Their selection depends on the size of the joint to be treated. Small joints are mainly treated with [169Er] erbium under a fluoroscopic or sonographic guidance, usually with a simultaneous instillation of a corticoid. Candidates for radiosynoviorthesis should have been under a six-month systemic treatment without encouraging results or should have undergone at least one unsuccessful intra-articular injection of a long acting glucocorticoid. Since 1973, when [169Er] erbium was firstly suggested as a therapeutic agent for radiosynoviorthesis of the finger joints, there has been quite enough experience in its? application. It has been found to be cost effective in providing long term relief of pain and deformity of the inflamed joints in comparison to other therapeutic approaches. Additionally, there is no radiation risk and can be performed on an out patient basis. Therefore it can stand as an effective alternative procedure for treating early stages of chronic synovitis in RA (rheumatoid arthritis) patients, with minor damage of the cartilage and the adjacent bones, and for synovitis secondary to inflammatory arthropathies.