Muscle pathologies or sarcopaenia are common in rheumatic diseases, but are not well defined. They are likely secondary to primary rheumatic diseases and rheumatic disease therapy, especially steroids. The aim is to develop strategies for prevention and treatment of muscle involvement / sarcopaenia in rheumatic diseases.
The BRC muscle imaging group uses MRI and ultrasound to characterize muscle disease and identify changes within muscle due to drug therapies or muscle trauma (enabling new insights into muscle rehabilitation following injury). The team has optimised MRI imaging techniques to allow quantification of fat within muscle using Dixon imaging techniques and spectroscopy. These techniques are currently being applied in the assessment of rotator cuff muscle prior to and following novel rotator cuff tendon repair surgery, and the assessment of muscle change in patients receiving steroid therapy. Using diffusion weighted MRI we are optimising techniques for assessing the anisotropy of water diffusion within muscle fibres, giving information relating to fibre size and, through the use of tractography, direction. We are also exploring the use of shearwave elastography in muscles.