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Rheumatology (Oxford). 2014 Jan;53(1):95-103. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/ket329. Epub 2013 Sep 29.

Bone erosions in patients with chronic gouty arthropathy are associated with tophi but not bone oedema or synovitis: new insights from a 3 T MRI study.

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Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, 85 Park Rd, Grafton, Auckland 1023, New Zealand.



Bone erosion has been linked with tophus deposition in gout but the roles of osteitis (MRI bone oedema) and synovitis remain uncertain. Our aims in this prospective 3 T MRI study were to investigate the frequency of these features in gout and determine their relation to one another.


3 T MRI scans of the wrist were obtained in 40 gout patients. Scans were scored independently by two radiologists for bone oedema, erosions, tophi and synovitis. Dual-energy CT (DECT) scans were scored for tophi in a subgroup of 10 patients.


Interreader reliability was high for erosions and tophi [intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) 0.77 (95% CI 0.71, 0.87) and 0.71 (95% CI 0.52, 0.83)] and moderate for bone oedema [ICC = 0.60 (95% CI 0.36, 0.77)]. Compared with DECT, MRI had a specificity of 0.98 (95% CI 0.93, 0.99) and sensitivity of 0.63 (95% CI 0.48, 0.76) for tophi. Erosions were detected in 63% of patients and were strongly associated with tophi [odds ratio (OR) = 13.0 (95% CI 1.5, 113)]. In contrast, no association was found between erosions and bone oedema. Using concordant data, bone oedema was scored at 6/548 (1%) sites in 5/40 patients (12.5%) and was very mild (median carpal score = 1, maximum = 45). In logistic regression analysis across all joints nested within individuals, tophus, but not synovitis, was independently associated with erosion [OR = 156.5 (21.2, >999.9), P < 0.0001].


Erosions were strongly associated with tophi but not bone oedema or synovitis. MRI bone oedema was relatively uncommon and low grade. These findings highlight the unique nature of the osteopathology of gout.


DECT; MRI; bone oedema; gout; tophi

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