© The Authors. Published by SPIE under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported License. Distribution or reproduction of this work in whole or in part requires full attribution of the original publication, including its DOI. Significance: Current guidelines for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) management recommend early treatment with disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). However, DMARD treatment fails in 30% of patients and current monitoring methods can only detect failure after 3 to 6 months of therapy. Aim: We investigated whether joint blood flow (BF), quantified using dynamic contrast-enhanced time-resolved near-infrared spectroscopy, can monitor disease activity and treatment response in a rat model of RA. Approach: Ankle joint BF was measured every 5 days in eight rats with adjuvant-induced arthritis (AIA) and four healthy controls. Arthritis was allowed to progress for 20 days before rats with AIA were treated with a DMARD once every 5 days until day 40. Results: Time and group had separate significant main effects on joint BF; however, there was no significant interaction between time and group despite a notable difference in average joint BF on day 5. Comparison of individual blood flow measures between rats with AIA and control group animals did not reveal a clear response to treatment. Conclusions: Joint BF time courses could not distinguish between rats with AIA and study controls. Heterogeneous disease response and low temporal frequency of BF measurements may have been important study limitations.
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