What is the role of arthrocentesis in the evaluation of suspected gout?

Updated: Jan 26, 2021
  • Author: Bruce M Rothschild, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Arthrocentesis of the affected joint is mandatory for all patients with new-onset acute monoarthritis and is very strongly recommended for those with recurrent attacks whose diagnosis has never been proved by microscopic visualization of crystals. Tophi also may be aspirated for crystal analysis under polarizing microscopy.

A prior history of gout or pseudogout does not rule out the possibility of acute septic arthritis. In fact, the latter is more common in patients with a history of crystal-induced arthritis. Septic arthritis must be diagnosed and treated promptly, because irreversible damage can occur within 4-6 hours and the joint can be completely destroyed within 24-48 hours.

Send joint fluid for fluid analysis, including cell count and differential, Gram stain, culture and sensitivity, and microscopic analysis for crystals. If crystals are seen, their shape and appearance under polarized light are diagnostic.

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