Background/ objective: This study seeks to assess the utility of synovial biopsy in the diagnosis of crystal-associated arthropathies (CAAs) in a clinical setting.
Methods: In this retrospective study, we reviewed biopsy reports involving synovial tissue between 1988 and 2015. We then reviewed the records of patients where the biopsy was performed for a clinical suspicion of CAA-the clinical group-and calculated the frequency of a positive diagnosis. The t test, Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon test, and Fisher test were used to compare clinical characteristics of patients with and without a tissue diagnosis of CAA. We also reviewed cases of unexpected detection of crystalline disease involving synovial tissue-the incidental group.
Results: Among 2786 biopsies involving the synovium, we identified 65 cases in the clinical group and 33 cases in the incidental group. In the clinical group, a relevant diagnosis was obtained from synovial tissue in 36.9%, and a CAA was diagnosed in 20%. Restricting analysis to clinical biopsies performed for a primary suspicion of CAA, a relevant diagnosis was obtained in 61.3%, and a CAA was diagnosed in 38.7%. The incidental group comprised 1.2% of all synovial biopsies and included 7 mass lesions. Basic calcium phosphate was not reported on any biopsy in the study period.
Conclusions: Synovial biopsy is a diagnostic option when suspected CAA is resistant to conventional modes of diagnosis. Crystalline diseases should be considered in the differential diagnosis of musculoskeletal mass lesions mimicking neoplasms.