Objectives: To determine whether hypouricaemic treatment results in the disappearance of urate crystals from gouty joints and to define the time required.
Methods: In 18 patients with monosodium urate (MSU) crystal proven gout, and after the initiation of successful serum uric acid (SUA)-lowering treatment, an arthrocentesis of the asymptomatic signal joint (11 knees, 7 first metatarsophalangeal joints) was performed every 3 months to obtain a synovial fluid (SF) sample. The sample was then analysed for the presence of MSU crystals, and the number of crystals/400× field was noted. SUA levels and the duration of gout were also noted.
Results: MSU crystals disappeared from the SF of all 18 joints after reduction of SUA to normal levels. The time required for disappearance ranged from 3 to 33 months; disappearance time correlated with the duration of gout (rs = 0.71; p<0.01). The median number of MSU crystals in the SF samples before urate-lowering treatment was 7.5 (2.5–11) crystals/400× field, reducing to 3 (1–6.5) crystals/400× field (p<0.05) at 3 months. Crystal counts continued to decrease after 3 months.
Conclusions: In gout, reduction of SUA to normal levels results in disappearance of urate crystals from SF, requiring a longer time in those patients with gout of longer duration. This indicates that urate crystal deposition in joints is reversible. Normalisation of SUA levels results in a decrease in the concentration of MSU crystals in SF in the asymptomatic gouty joints. This may partially explain the reduced frequency of gouty attacks when a patient has been treated with SUA-lowering drugs.
- MTP, metatarsophalangeal
- MSU, monosodium urate
- SF, synovial fluid
- SUA, serum uric acid
- monosodium urate crystals
- synovial fluid
- gout treatment
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Published Online First 12 January 2007
Conflict of interest: None declared.
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