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Gout at the spine : a retrospective study with dual-energy computed tomography


E. Chotard 1, J. M. Sverzut 2 , F. Lioté 1, 3, T. Bardin 1, 3, H.K. Ea 1, 3

1 AP-HP, hôpital Lariboisière, service de rhumatologie, centre Viggo Petersen, Paris, 2 Centre cardiologique du Nord, service de radiologie, St Ouen, 3 INSERM UMR1132, Bioscar, University Paris Diderot, Paris, France.


Background: Gout is due to monosodium urate (MSU) crystal deposition after chronic hyperuricemia. Although MSU crystal deposition can occur in every joint and peri-articular structure, spine involvement is scarcely reported. Dual energy computed tomography (DECT) is a performant tool to assess urate deposits, especially in deep structures such as intervertebral discs and apophyseal joints.

Objectives: to describe spinal DECT features of urate monosodium deposits compared to peripheral joint DECT.

Methods: Patient with gout diagnosis ( MSU crystal identification by polarized microscopy or fulfilling “Nijmegen’s criteria” (1) ) who had undergone DECT were included from November 2012 to June 2016. Images were analyzed by a trained musculoskeletal radiologist. For each DECT, clinical and biochemical characteristics of each patient were collected retrospectively.

Results: 22 patients (men 77%), mean age 62.5 years and mean BMI 28.4 kg/m2 were included. Mean gout duration was 108.0 ± 114.4 months, mean of last available serum uric acid level was 520 ± 193 µmol/l, and 15 patients had at least one clinical tophus. Mean estimated glomerular filtration rate (MDRD formula) was 47 ± 27 ml/min/1.73 m2. One patient was on hemodialysis and one had received kidney transplant. A total of 39 DECT has been performed: 28 of peripheral joints and 11 of the spine (9 lumbar, 1 sacroiliac and 1 cervical). Spinal DECT were done in 10 patients to explore recurrent inflammatory pain (n= 3 lumbar, 1 cervical and 1 buttock) or mechanical back pain (n=2 lumbar). 4 spinal DECT were performed in asymptomatic patients with extended peripheral tophi. Spinal MSU crystal deposits were disclosed by DECT in 83% (5/6) and 25% (1/4) of symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, respectively. In all painful patients, MSU crystal deposition was considered as a likely explanation of spinal symptoms. MSU crystal depositions was identified in apophyseal joints (n=5), cervical intervertebral disc (n=1) and yellow or interspinous ligaments (n=4). All involved apophyseal joints were eroded (figure 1). No vertebral bone erosion was observed. Calcification of spinal tophus was observed in 4 patients. DECT identified peripheral deposits in 15/18 (83.3%) patients. In peripheral DECT, bone erosions were observed in 71.4% and joint effusion in 32.1% of DECT positive peripheral joints. MSU crystal depositions were observed in tendons, cartilages or synovial membranes in 82.1% of positive DECT joints and in soft tissues in 64.3% of positive patients. MSU crystal deposits were calcified in 7 cases.

Conclusions: MSU crystal depositions at the spine are present in 60% of patients in this retrospective DECT study. DECT can represent a performing imaging procedure for their detection in symptomatic patients. Further studies are needed to assess the clinical utility of DECT of the spine in gout.

References: (1) Janssens HJ, Fransen J, van de Lisdonk EH, et al. A diagnostic rule for acute gouty arthritis in primary care without joint fluid analysis. Arch Intern Med 2010;170:1120–6.