BackgroundThe reduction of finger joint space width (JSW) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is strongly associated with joint destruction. Treatment with certolizumab pegol (CZP), a PEGylated anti-TNF, has been proven to be effective in RA patients. The computer-aided joint space analysis (CAJSA) provides the semiautomated measurement of joint space width at the metacarpal-phalangeal joints (MCP) based on hand radiographs. The aim of this post hoc analysis of the RAPID 1 trial was to quantify MCP joint space distance (JSD-MCP) measured by CAJSA between baseline and week 52 in RA patients treated with certolizumab pegol (CZP) plus methotrexate (MTX) compared with MTX/placebo.MethodsThree hundred twenty-eight patients were included in the post hoc analysis and received placebo plus MTX, CZP 200 mg plus MTX and CZP 400 mg plus MTX. All patients underwent X-rays of the hand at baseline and week 52 as well as assessment of finger joint space narrowing of the MCP using CAJSA (Version 1.3.6; Sectra; Sweden). The joint space width (JSW) was expressed as mean joint space distance of the MCP joints I to V (JSD-MCPtotal).ResultsThe MTX group showed a significant reduction of joint space of − 4.8% (JSD-MCPtotal), whereas in patients treated with CZP 200 mg/MTX and CZP 400 mg/MTX a non-significant change (JSD-MCPtotal + 0.6%) was observed. Over 52 weeks, participants with DAS28 remission (DAS28 ≤ 2.6) exhibited a significant joint space increase of + 3.3% (CZP 200 mg plus MTX) and + 3.9% (CZP pegol 400 mg plus MTX).ConclusionCZP plus MTX did not reduce JSD-MCPtotal estimated by CAJSA compared with MTX/placebo. Furthermore, clinical remission (DAS28 ≤ 2.6) in patients treated with CZP plus MTX was associated with an increasing JSD, indicating radiographic remission in RA.