Limitations of dual-energy CT in the detection of monosodium urate deposition in dense liquid tophi and calcified tophi

Se Jin Ahn, Dawen Zhang, Benjamin D. Levine, Nicola Dalbeth, Bregina Pool, Veena K. Ranganath, Prosper Benhaim, Scott D. Nelson, Scott S. Hsieh, John D. FitzGerald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Dual-energy CT (DECT) detection of monosodium urate (MSU) crystal deposition has demonstrated good sensitivity and specificity in patients with established gout. However, limitations have been reported with early disease and with low urate burden. We aimed to study the performance of DECT in the detection and quantification of MSU deposition in solid and liquid tophi. Materials and methods: Patient-derived solid and liquid tophi, suspensions of commercial synthetic, and in-house synthetic MSU crystals were prepared at varying concentrations. DECT was performed at 80 kVp and 150 kVp, and post-processed using Syngo Via gout software (Siemens) that color-coded urate and cortical bone as green and purple, respectively. DECT findings were correlated with ultrasound and microscopic findings. The protocol was reviewed by IRB and considered a non-human subject research. Results: DECT did not detect urate deposition in either patient-derived liquid tophi or in-house synthetic crystals at any concentration. Lowering the post-processing minimum threshold increased the detection of in-house synthetic crystals but did not change the detection of patient-derived liquid tophi. Areas of calcium-rich purple color-coded regions, masking detection of urate, within the solid tophi and surrounding liquid tophi were noted on DECT. Histology showed co-presence of calcium along with MSU deposition in these. Conclusion: This study illustrates important limitations of DECT for liquid tophi due to subthreshold CT attenuation and for calcified tophi due to the obscuration of urate by calcium. Urate may be either undetectable or underestimated by DECT when these conditions are present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1667-1675
Number of pages9
JournalSkeletal Radiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Computed tomography
  • Gout
  • Suspensions
  • Synovial fluid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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