Objective: The main aim of the present study was to determine the sensitivity, specificity and accuracy of ultrasonography (US) in detecting monosodium urate and calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate crystals deposits at knee cartilage level using clinical definite diagnosis as standard reference.
Design: A total of 32 patients with a diagnosis of gout and 48 patients with pyrophosphate arthropathy were included in the study. Fifty-two patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis or osteoarthritis (OA) were recruited as disease controls. All diagnoses were made using an international clinical criterion. US examinations were performed by an experienced sonographer, blind to clinical and laboratory data. Hyaline cartilage was assessed to detect two US findings recently indicated as indicative of crystal deposits: hyperechoic enhancement of the superficial margin of the hyaline cartilage and hyperechoic spots within the cartilage layer not generating a posterior acoustic shadow.
Results: Hyperechoic enhancement of the chondrosynovial margin was found in at least one knee of 14 out of 32 (43.7%) patients with gout and in a single knee of only one patient affected by pyrophosphate arthropathy (specificity=99%). Intra-cartilaginous hyperechoic spots were detected in at least one knee of 33 out of 48 (68.7%) patients with pyrophosphate arthropathy and in two disease controls one with OA and the second with RA (specificity=97.6%).
Conclusions: The results of the present study indicate that US may play a relevant role in distinguishing cartilage involvement in patients with crystal-related arthropathy. The selected US findings were found to be highly specific.