Evaluation of crystals in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue sections for the differential diagnosis of pseudogout, gout, and tumoral calcinosis

Mod Pathol. 2001 Aug;14(8):806-10. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.3880394.


Hematoxylin-eosin (H&E)-stained sections may not allow proper evaluation of birefringence properties of the crystals in the lesions of pseudogout, gout, and tumoral calcinosis. This study was undertaken to verify the application of a special stain that could facilitate the evaluation of the birefringence properties of these crystals for definitive diagnosis. We evaluated previously described nonaqueous alcoholic eosin staining (NAES) method based on the principle of using alcoholic eosin without hematoxylin and any other aqueous reagents for staining of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue sections. Two observers, in a blinded fashion, evaluated the sections stained with routine H&E and NEAS method without the knowledge about clinical diagnosis. All pseudogout (nine sections from seven cases) and gout (eight sections from five cases) lesions demonstrated birefringence in the sections stained with NAES method. H&E-stained sections showing the respective diagnostic histomorphology failed to demonstrate the birefringent crystals by polarizing microscopy in all the eight sections from gout and in seven of nine sections from pseudogout. Only two H&E-stained sections showed scant calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate (CPPD) crystals in pseudogout. None of the three sections from two cases of tumoral calcinosis showed birefringence with either stain. We conclude that CPPD in pseudogout and monosodium urate in gout may not polarize in the routine H&E-stained sections. However, polarizing microscopy of sections stained with NAES method allowed demonstration of CPPD crystals with positive birefringence in pseudogout, MSU crystals with negative birefringence in gout, and calcium hydroxyapatite crystals without birefringence in tumoral calcinosis. Section stained with NAES method is a significantly useful adjunct to the routine H&E stain for proper evaluation of the crystals under polarizing microscope in these lesions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Calcinosis / pathology*
  • Calcium Pyrophosphate / chemistry
  • Chondrocalcinosis / pathology*
  • Crystallization
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Durapatite / chemistry
  • Formaldehyde
  • Gout / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Paraffin Embedding
  • Staining and Labeling / methods
  • Staining and Labeling / standards
  • Tissue Fixation
  • Uric Acid / chemistry


  • Formaldehyde
  • Uric Acid
  • Durapatite
  • Calcium Pyrophosphate