The aims of this study were to test whether spectral photon-counting radiography (SPCR) is able to identify and distinguish different crystals associated with arthropathies in vitro and to validate findings in a gouty human third toe ex vivo.
Materials and Methods
Industry-standard calibration rods of calcium pyrophosphate, calcium hydroxyapatite (HA), and monosodium urate (MSU) were scanned with SPCR in an experimental setup. Each material was available at 3 different concentrations, and a dedicated photon-counting detector was used for SPCR, whereas validation scans were obtained on a clinical dual-energy computed tomography (DECT) scanner. Regions of interest were placed on SPCR images and consecutive DECT images to measure x-ray attenuation characteristics, including effective atomic numbers (Zeff). Statistical tests were performed for differentiation of Zeff between concentrations, materials, and imaging modalities. In addition, a third toe from a patient with chronic gouty arthritis was scanned with SPCR and DECT for differentiation of MSU from HA.
In both SPCR and DECT, significant differences in attenuation and Zeff values were found for different concentrations among (P < 0.001) and between different materials (P < 0.001). Overall, quantitative measurements of Zeff did not differ significantly between SPCR- and DECT-derived measurements (P = 0.054–0.412). In the human cadaver toe, gouty bone erosions were visible on standard grayscale radiographic images; however, spectral image decomposition revealed the nature and extent of MSU deposits and was able to separate it from bone HA by Zeff.
Identification and differentiation of different crystals related to arthropathies are possible with SPCR at comparable diagnostic accuracy to DECT. Further research is needed to assess diagnostic accuracy and clinical usability in vivo.