Which inflamed tissues explain a positive metatarsophalangeal squeeze test? A large imaging study to clarify a common diagnostic procedure

Bastiaan T. van Dijk*, Yousra J. Dakkak, Doortje I. Krijbolder, D. Jendé van Zeben, Ilja Tchetverikov, Monique Reijnierse, Annette H.M. van der Helm-van Mil

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


OBJECTIVES: The squeeze test of MTP joints is frequently used because it is easy and cheap. It is traditionally perceived as a test for synovitis. Besides classic intra-articular synovitis, also tenosynovitis and intermetatarsal bursitis (IMB) represent synovial inflammation, albeit juxta-articularly located. Both are frequently present in RA and occasionally in other arthritides. Therefore we hypothesized that tenosynovitis and IMB contribute to a positive MTP squeeze test. METHODS: A cross-sectional study design was used. A total of 192 early arthritis patients and 693 clinically suspect arthralgia patients underwent the MTP squeeze test and forefoot MRI at first presentation. MRI measurements in age-matched healthy controls were used to define positivity for synovitis, tenosynovitis and IMB. Logistic regression was used. RESULTS: In early arthritis patients, synovitis [odds ratio (OR) 4.8 (95% CI 2.5, 9.5)], tenosynovitis [2.4 (1.2, 4.7)] and IMB [1.7 (1.2, 2.6)] associated with MTP squeeze test positivity. Synovitis [OR 3.2 (95% CI 1.4, 7.2)] and IMB [3.9 (1.7, 8.8)] remained associated in multivariable analyses. Of patients with a positive MTP squeeze test, 79% had synovitis or IMB: 12% synovitis, 15% IMB and 52% both synovitis and IMB. In clinically suspect arthralgia patients, subclinical synovitis [OR 3.0 (95% CI 2.0, 4.7)], tenosynovitis [2.7 (1.6, 4.6)] and IMB [1.7 (1.2, 2.6)] associated with MTP squeeze test positivity, with the strongest association for synovitis in multivariable analysis. Of positive MTP squeeze tests, 39% had synovitis or IMB (10% synovitis, 15% IMB and 13% both synovitis and IMB). CONCLUSION: Besides synovitis, IMB contributes to pain upon compression in early arthritis, presumably due to its location between MTP joints. This is the first evidence showing that MTP squeeze test positivity is not only explained by intra- but also juxta-articular inflammation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4107-4112
Number of pages6
JournalRheumatology (Oxford, England)
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the European
Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon
2020 research and innovation programme (starting
grant, agreement no. 714312) and by the Dutch Arthritis

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Society for Rheumatology.


Dive into the research topics of 'Which inflamed tissues explain a positive metatarsophalangeal squeeze test? A large imaging study to clarify a common diagnostic procedure'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this