CT scans can detect gout cases

Washington: Gout not detected otherwise can be confirmed by CT scans in patients, say researchers at the Mayo Clinic, US.

The type of CT scan, known as dual-energy computed tomography, is also valuable for diagnosing people who cannot be tested with the typical method of drawing fluid from joints, researchers found.

Dual-energy CT scans were recently modified to detect the crystals, and the study found the scans "very accurate" in identifying patients with gout, said Tim Bongartz, rheumatologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who led the study.

"We wanted to really challenge the new method by including patients who were only a few days into their first flare of gout," Bongartz was quoted as saying in a Mayo statement.

Gout, the build-up of uric acid crystals in and around joints, causing inflammation and painful, potentially disabling flare-ups, has historically been portrayed as a disease of the wealthy but it afflicts people from all walks of life.

Men are likelier to develop gout, but women`s risk rises after menopause, when their uric acid levels approach those of men. Treatment usually involves medication and dietary changes.

Physicians traditionally check for gout by using a needle to draw fluid from affected joints and examining the fluid for uric acid crystals.

Bongartz noted that CT scans are significantly more expensive than the standard test for diagnosing gout. He also cautioned that, while highly accurate overall, in one subgroup of patients studied -- those with very acute gout -- the CT scan failed to identify 30 percent of cases.

The new tool is most helpful when joint fluid cannot be obtained or the fluid analysis comes back negative even when gout is strongly suspected, he said.

The study was presented at the American College of Rheumatology annual scientific meeting in Chicago.


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