Australian Rheumatology Association

Recommendations from the Australian Rheumatology Association on arthroscopy, ANA testing, imaging, ultrasound and anti-dsDNA antibodies. The ARA supports and educates members and other practitioners in the musculoskeletal field to enable provision of best possible management for patients. It fosters excellence in the diagnosis and management of musculoskeletal and inflammatory conditions through training, professional development, research and advocacy.

Do not order anti-double stranded (ds) DNA antibodies in ANA negative patients unless clinical suspicion of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) remains high.

Date reviewed: 6 February 2018

International recommendations advise testing for anti-dsDNA antibodies only after detecting a positive ANA in patients with symptoms consistent with systemic lupus erythematosus. In patients who are ANA negative, anti-dsDNA should only be ordered in clinical situations where the pre-test probability of SLE is very high. Where positive, repeating anti-dsDNA antibodies titres is a useful test for monitoring disease activity, especially in lupus nephritis.

Supporting evidence
  • Agmon-Levin N, Damoiseaux J, Kallenberg C, et al. International recommendations for the assessment of autoantibodies to cellular antigens referred to as anti-nuclear antibodies. Ann Rheum Dis 2014; 73:17-23.
  • Kavanaugh AF, Solomon DH. Guidelines for immunologic laboratory testing in the rheumatic diseases: anti-DNA antibody tests. Arthritis Rheum 2002; 47:546-55.
  • Linnik MD, Hu JZ, Heilbrunn KR, et al. Relationship between anti-double-stranded DNA antibodies and exacerbation of renal disease in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Arthritis Rheum 2005; 52:1129-37.
How this list was made How this list was made

An ARA Evolve working group comprising 19 rheumatologists and 3 advanced rheumatology trainees was established after a call for interest. The group agreed that items should be included if they were either primarily a rheumatologist issue or an issue that rheumatologists should advocate for on behalf of their patients.

A preliminary list of low-value clinical practices was created based upon the working group’s clinical experiences, as well as consideration of potentially relevant items identified from a review of other lists generated. This list was refined into 12 items and small teams for each topic were formed to review the evidence pertaining to these items and their relevance to Australian healthcare.

Brief summaries of the evidence were written based on NHMRC evidence review standards. An anonymous online survey was created based on these summaries and all ordinary (356 rheumatologists) and associate (72 rheumatology trainees) ARA members were invited to participate. Survey participants were asked to select the five recommendations for which they considered the evidence to be the strongest. The survey attracted a 50% response rate and based on its results, the ARA top five recommendations were formulated.

Download ARA Recommendations