Diagnosis and Treatment of Acute Gout at a University Hospital Emergency Department

Naomi Schlesinger*, 1, Diane C Radvanski 1, Tina C Young 2, Jonathan V McCoy 3, Robert Eisenstein 3, Dirk F Moore 2
1 Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ, USA
2 Department of Biostatistics, Rutgers School of Public Health Piscataway, NJ, USA
3 Department of Emergency Medicine, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ, USA

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© Schlesinger et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Medicine, Rutgers- Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ, USA; Tel: 1-732-235-8378; Fax: 1-732 235-7238; E-mail:


Background :

Acute gout attacks account for a substantial number of visits to the emergency department (ED). Our aim was to evaluate acute gout diagnosis and treatment at a University Hospital ED.

Methods :

Our study was a retrospective chart review of consecutive patients with a diagnosis of acute gout seen in the ED 1/01/2004 - 12/31/2010. We documented: demographics, clinical characteristics, medications given, diagnostic tests, consultations and whether patients were hospitalized. Descriptive and summary statistics were performed on all variables.

Results :

We found 541 unique ED visit records of patients whose discharge diagnosis was acute gout over a 7 year period. 0.13% of ED visits were due to acute gout. The mean patient age was 54; 79% were men. For 118 (22%) this was their first attack. Attack duration was ≤ 3 days in 75%. Lower extremity joints were most commonly affected. Arthrocentesis was performed in 42 (8%) of acute gout ED visits.

During 355 (66%) of ED visits, medications were given in the ED and/or prescribed. An anti-inflammatory drug was given during the ED visit during 239 (44%) visits. Medications given during the ED visit included: NSAIDs: 198 (56%): opiates 190 (54%); colchicine 32 (9%) and prednisone 32 (9%). During 154 (28%) visits an anti-inflammatory drug was prescribed. Thirty two (6%) were given no medications during the ED visit nor did they receive a prescription. Acute gout rarely (5%) led to hospitalizations.

Conclusion :

The diagnosis of acute gout in the ED is commonly clinical and not crystal proven. Anti-inflammatory drugs are the mainstay of treatment in acute gout; yet, during more than 50% of ED visits, anti-inflammatory drugs were not given during the visit. Thus, improvement in the diagnosis and treatment of acute gout in the ED may be required.

Keywords: Acute gout, diagnosis, emergency department, treatment.