Ultrasonography in the prediction of gout flares: a 12-month prospective observational study

To evaluate whether US findings indicating MSU deposits and US-detected inflammation (i.e. power Doppler signal) predict gout flares over 12 months.

Gout patients on urate-lowering therapy for at least the preceding 6 months were enrolled consecutively in this 12-month prospective, observational, single-centre study. A nested case–control analysis was performed. Cases were participants with at least one flare in the follow-up period, while controls did not self-report any gout flare. The US assessment included elbows, wrists, second MCP joints, knees, ankles, and first MTP joints. The US findings indicating MSU deposits [i.e. aggregates, double contour (DC) sign and tophi] were identified as present/absent according to the Outcome Measure in Rheumatology definitions. Power Doppler signal was scored semiquantitatively. Summated scores were calculated for each US finding.

Eighty-one gout participants were enrolled, and 71 completed the study. Thirty (42.3%) of 71 participants experienced at least one flare over 12 months, with a median of 2.0 flares. Cases had a greater US burden of MSU deposits (6.7 ± 4.7 vs 2.9 ± 2.6, P = 0.01) and power Doppler signal (3.73 ± 3.53 vs 0.82 ± 1.44, P < 0.01) than controls, at baseline. The baseline US scores indicating MSU deposits and US-detected inflammation were significantly associated with the occurrence (total MSU score, adjusted odds ratio:1.75, 95% CI: 1.26, 2.43; power Doppler score, adjusted odds ratio: 1.63, 95% CI: 1.12, 2.40) and the number (total MSU score, adjusted incidence risk ratio: 1.17, 95% CI: 1.08, 1.26; power Doppler score, adjusted incidence risk ratio: 1.29, 95% CI: 1.19, 1.40) of flares over 12 months in multivariate analyses.

Baseline US findings indicating MSU deposits and US-detected inflammation are independent predictors of gout flares over 12 months.