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Ultrasonography shows disappearance of monosodium urate crystal deposition on hyaline cartilage after sustained normouricemia is achieved

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This study aimed at determining whether lowering serum urate (SU) to less than 6 mg/dl in patients with gout affects ultrasonographic findings. Seven joints in five patients with monosodium urate (MSU) crystal proven gout and hyperuricemia were examined over time with serial ultrasonography. Four of the five patients were treated with urate lowering drugs (ULDs) (allopurinol, n = 3; probenecid, n = 1). One patient was treated with colchicine alone. Attention was given to changes in a hyperechoic, irregular coating of the hyaline cartilage in the examined joints (double contour sign or “urate icing”). This coating was considered to represent precipitate of MSU crystals. Index joints included metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joints (n = 2), knee joints (n = 3), and first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joints (n = 2). The interval between baseline and follow-up images ranged from 7 to 18 months. Serial SU levels were obtained during the follow-up period. During the follow-up period, three patients treated with ULD (allopurinol, n = 2; probenecid, n = 1) achieved a SU level of <6 mg/dl. In two patients, SU levels remained above 6 mg/dl (treated with allopurinol, n = 1; treated with colchicine, n = 1). At baseline, the double contour sign was seen in all patients. In those patients who achieved SU levels of <6 ml/dl, this sign had disappeared at follow-up. Disappearance of the double contour sign was seen in two knee joints, two first MTP joints, and one MCP joint. In contrast, disappearance of the double contour sign was not seen in patients who maintained a SU level ≥7 mg/dl. In one patient treated with allopurinol, SU levels improved from 13 to 7 mg/dl during the follow-up period. Decrease, but not resolution of the hyperechoic coating was seen in this patient. In the patient treated with colchicine alone, SU levels remained >8 mg/dl, and no sonographic change was observed. In our patients, sonographic signs of deposition of MSU crystals on the surface of hyaline cartilage disappeared completely if sustained normouricemia was achieved. This is the first report showing that characteristic sonographic changes are influenced by ULDs once SU levels remain ≤6 mg/dl for 7 months or more. Sonographic changes of gout correlate with SU levels and may be a non-invasive means to track changes in the uric acid pool. Larger prospective studies are needed to further assess these potentially important findings.

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We would like to thank Professor Peter C. Taylor and Professor Marc Feldmann for their kind review and constructive criticism.

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The authors have declared no conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Ralf G. Thiele.

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Thiele, R.G., Schlesinger, N. Ultrasonography shows disappearance of monosodium urate crystal deposition on hyaline cartilage after sustained normouricemia is achieved. Rheumatol Int 30, 495–503 (2010).

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