Don't Miss out on Spotting Gout

CT scans identify gout patients where standard tests fail

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Over the past couple decades, advances in technology have made it easer to detect all sorts of conditions, including gout. But some tests do not always work. One type of X-ray can spot gout where other tests miss it.

Computed tomography (CT) scans can verify if someone has gout (a form of arthritis), even if other tests did not detect the painful condition. CT scans are also useful for diagnosing gout in patients who cannot undergo the traditional test of drawing fluid from joints.

"A CT scan can help diagnose gout in difficult cases."

Gout occurs when crystals of uric acid build up around joints, causing pain and inflammation. Normally, doctors check for gout by drawing fluid from affected joints and looking for uric acid crystals. Tim Bongartz, M.D., a rheumatologist at Mayo Clinic, and colleagues set out to see if CT scans could spot these crystals.

It was only recently that CT scans - or more specifically dual-energy CT scans - were reworked to spot crystals of uric acid. So, the researchers wanted to test the limits of this new method. Instead of only testing the technology on patients with highly developed gout, they also took images of those who were within a few days of their first flare-up of gout.

According to Dr. Bongartz, the scans were "very accurate" in spotting patients with gout. However, he points out that CT scans come with a much higher price tag that the traditional test for diagnosing gout.

Dr. Bongartz also mentions one large drawback to the CT scan method: it was not highly accurate in spotting cases of acute gout. During the study, CT scans did not identify 30 percent of the patients with acute gout.

Rather than using CT scans to diagnose every case of gout, it appears they are most useful when fluid cannot be drawn from the joints or when the fluid test comes back negative even though it is highly likely a patient is suffering from gout, says Dr. Bongartz.

Dr. Bongartz presented his study at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in Chicago. As such, his team's findings still need to go through the peer-review process.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 9, 2011
Last Updated:
November 10, 2011