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BMJ Publishing Group, RMD Open, 3(9), p. e003118, 2023

DOI: 10.1136/rmdopen-2023-003118



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Do fatty lesions explain the effect of inflammation on new syndesmophytes in patients with radiographic axial spondyloarthritis? Results from the SIAS cohort and ASSERT trial

This paper is made freely available by the publisher.
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.

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ObjectivesTo determine how much of the effect of vertebral corner inflammation on development of syndesmophytes is explained by vertebral corner fat deposition.MethodsPatients with radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (r-axSpA) from the SIAS (Sensitive Imaging in Ankylosing Spondylitis) cohort and ASSERT (Ankylosing Spondylitis Study for the Evaluation of Recombinant Infliximab Therapy) trial were assessed at T0, T1 (SIAS: 1 year; ASSERT: 24 weeks) and T2 (2 years). Syndesmophytes assessed in each vertebral corner by whole spine low-dose CT (SIAS) or spinal radiographs (ASSERT) at T0 and T2 were considered present if seen by two of two readers. Inflammation (T0) and fat deposition (T0 and T1) on MRI were present if seen by ≥2 of 3 readers (SIAS) or 2 of 2 readers (ASSERT). Vertebral corners showing fat deposition or a syndesmophyte at baseline were ignored. Mediation analysis was applied to determine what proportion of the total effect of inflammation on syndesmophyte formation could be explained via the path of intermediate fat deposition.ResultsForty-nine SIAS patients (with 2667 vertebral corners) and 168 ASSERT patients (with 2918 vertebral corners) were analysed. The presence of inflammation at T0 increased the probability of a new syndesmophyte in the same vertebral corner at T2 by 9.3%. Of this total effect, 0.2% (2% (0.2 of 9.3) of the total effect) went via intermediate new fat deposition. In ASSERT, the total effect was 7.3%, of which 0.8% (10% of the total effect) went via new fat deposition.ConclusionIn r-axSpA, vertebral corner inflammation may lead to syndesmophyte formation but in a minority of cases via visible fat deposition.